It’s been roughly ten years since I had my own library card. But I did, for a short time. I vividly remember going to the Scottsdale Public Library with my mom and brother after school to get new SSR books. Although I routinely darted to the section that housed the “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” books, I loved the library as a whole. There was something pleasant about going from the loud, chaotic playground at recess to one of the quietest and serene places we know of, which is intended for maximizing focus. Libraries have always been underrated, and now they’re virtually extinct due to online bookstores and e-book popularity. By the same token, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them all to shut down as well, which slightly hurts my heart. I don’t even know if people possess library cards anymore, but any adult who is alive today knows what their sole purpose used to be. Libraries are the physical version of the internet, in a way. They are places of information. When most people think of a “library”, they think of books. But more than just books, libraries offer people free access to a wealth of knowledge that they often can’t find elsewhere, whether online, in print, or in person. We all need libraries. They are the safe and trusted spaces in every community where we have free access to books, information, experiences, and ideas, but to the expert professional advice and support we all need to help us find the resources we desire. Even if libraries evolve towards existing entirely digitally, which is a high likelihood at this point, the intrinsic premise of their purpose will always be around.
We may not have a need for library cards anymore, which saves the demand for plastic and gets rid of awkward encounters with library clerks. But, this entry is intended to bring light to them by introducing a rhetorical comparison attempt. A card in each of our wallets that I know for a fact won’t be going away any time soon is known as the debit card, or, equivalently, its fraternal twin, a credit card. Debit cards and credit cards provide us with highly advanced modes of purchasing products or services, investing, and lifestyle opportunities. Each of these activities is vital for quintessential survival in the 21st century. But wait, hold up, I should rephrase that… “survival in first-world America”. In many other countries, peoples’ methods of making transactions are nowhere near the feasibility of some 2’ x 3’ inch piece of plastic that can pay for things with a quick swipe. And certainly not at the level of tapping a few buttons on your smartphone to Venmo friends. We have come a long way and lost some primitive traditions along the road.
With the start of the industrial revolution, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation-X established a well-known perception of success, centered around pursuing more monetary wealth. Commercial endeavors, ongoing economic growth, and numerical amounts are all attributes that have been built into the soil of America since the colonists first sailed here. I absolutely love this country and believe that the concepts of hard work, contribution, and incentive for development are incredibly terrific activities. Therefore, I would never belittle the progress we have made in this country, nor would I ever desire to change the past. A wise and discerning person knows that it is impossible to reverse or eradicate events from our history. Moreover, all we can do is identify the holes and fill them with enhancement.
The analogy I am about to layout is coming from a capitalism-admiring, America-respecting, and observant mindset. I have witnessed a distinct trend of well-off Americans knowingly trading in their library cards for debit cards. What this means is that many individuals are not putting in the work to retain knowledge for themselves. Instead, they utilize monetary currency, via their bank accounts, to outsource all information needed in the short term without it resonating in their minds for the long term. An efficient example I can use to explain this is the plague spreading throughout most American colleges and universities: students are cheating their way through an alarming amount of classes. Tutoring websites have made it extremely accessible for students to pay competent tutors to do all of their work, quiz answer hubs are an ideal place to use “Command F”, and Zoom University allows students of all grade levels to debunk the entire system. Anyone who may try to argue this reality will be up against an undeniable set of legitimacies. Students are smart, and college students are even smarter. The Gen-Z age-group is more well-versed with technology resources than most of their professors, and I believe that the education system has not even come close to keeping up with or outsmarting the tech outlets that students routinely use for cutting corners. I am guilty of doing this in the past as well. However, I have realized that it does me no good to cut corners for everything I come across and that I am a more valuable person to society if I can retain as much useful knowledge on my own as I can, without the help of an external crutch.
Efficiency is a desirable phenomenon. For some, outsourcing all intelligence and relying on a mobile device to search for day-to-day answers may seem like the most productive approach. However, what if one day all of the search engines collapsed? What if you really did become stranded on a deserted island and didn’t know how to survive without necessities? Or, even more hypothetical, what if success in society had absolutely nothing to do with how much money you could make from duping the system, and instead, it was measured solely on the amount of relevancy inside of your head? Yeah, that’d be nuts.
Everyone has a different hierarchy of interests in areas that they want to seek knowledge from. For me, forcing myself to learn how to read morse code would be an unpreferred use of my time; when I could simply hire an expert. Conversely, teaching myself to speak fundamental Spanish would be an endeavor I’d personally enjoy more and would be able to utilize more often. For instance, my brother may have a higher interest in learning how to play chess than learning how to do magic tricks, yet, whichever endeavor could still be Google searched in the short term would allow him to understand either one. I just want people to really think about the difference between actually knowing something versus knowing things because it’s easy to search on your device. I am all about making use of our resources but not letting them diminish us. A quality that all humans possess is exceptional intelligence. Therefore, we must always exercise our minds, push them to their limits, try to retain as much knowledge as possible, and not let the technology we’ve created start to outperform us. After all, artificial intelligence may run the show soon if we don’t stay ahead.
So, take a look at your wallet. Recognize which card you tend to pull out more often. Is it your library card or your debit card? And which one will provide more value for you and society in the long term as you routinely swipe your card at the checkout counter of life?