Too much tech in Houston's downtown library?

August 21, 2008 4:47:17 PM PDT
The libraries you may remember from your youth aren't just for books anymore. They're now filled with computers and, in the case of the newly revamped downtown library, video gaming systems. And that has one woman upset. Like so many children stories, this begins with, 'Once upon a time,' except, times have changed in Houston's revamped central library. In the new children's section, popular Wii video games can be played, a welcome surprise for nine-year-old Charles Wang.

"Most libraries are for reading," he told us, while playing a game.

That's what three parents have told the library, that video games should not share space with the written word. Sarah Gish wrote a letter of complaint to the library. We spoke with her by phone.

"I go back to imagination, to use their minds in ways that they have to come up with the images and pictures and they have to read the words and explore," she told us.

More parents, though, than Gish wonder about the arrangement.

"In this day and age, I guess you really have to think of ways to get kids in because there are so many distractions in the world," said parents Melissa Marshall.

What's most surprising, though, according to the library's manager of central youth services, is that since the games went in, more children's books have been checked out.

"Parents come in, their kids play and then they check out," said Sandra Farmer with the Houston Central Library. "We've checked out 45,000 items just out of kids in June and July."

That's 30 percent higher, according to the library. Libraries, we're told, are about media, from the printed word to now the pixel image. The trick is combining them to teach as well as stimulate.

Just ask the patrons.

"They have fun and read," said Wang. "That's what I think."

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