My dad, like many older children of the “Dirty ’30s”, never finished school and instead had to go and find work to help his family survive the Great Depression.
But he was an intelligent person and driven to learn more about the world, so he did that through reading books and newspapers and anything else he could get his hands on at the time.
Reading was his education, especially when it came to world events and war history. He referred to historical events all the time as I was growing up.
I was not interested in history in the least, so I would simply roll my eyes at him.
When he passed away in 2013, he left quite a library of books behind. I gave family and friends a chance to take what they wanted and then donated the rest to the Times Colonist Book Drive. I hung on to one or two of them for myself.
One book is titled The Bitter Years by Richard Petrow. My dad referred to that book often, and for that reason I decided to keep it.
The book is about the German invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway during the Second World War. My family is Danish on both sides, and my mother lived in Denmark during the German occupation.
About two or three weeks ago, I decided that maybe I should start reading it myself. Considering the war that is going on right now in Ukraine, and potential war elsewhere in the world, I thought the topic was more relevant than ever.
The book is very detailed and sometimes overwhelming, but I am dedicated to finishing it and maybe learning a few things along the way. Actually, I’ve learned a lot already.
Reading a book takes time, and even patience. And in this world of tweets and TikToks, we’ve become conditioned to getting it all said and done in 280 characters or less.
Not only that, but we often believe what we read in a tweet without making the effort of finding out for sure if it is true.
Maybe we’ll even re-tweet it. I’m ashamed to say that I have done that myself.
As we know, social media has lead to all sorts of misinformation and misunderstandings. How different the world would be if we actually had to educate ourselves about something before re-tweeting it!
I know. That’s not going to happen.
When the internet and Google and Twitter came to be, I was worried about public libraries. What would happen to them?
I worked in a public library for several years and learned so much from that experience.
During that time a lot of people relied on libraries for information, from students, to researchers, to writers. Even teachers. Librarians would be answering questions on the phone or in person day and night.
There were all kinds of calls. Some of them interesting. Some, not so much.
On a Friday or Saturday night, you might get a call from a couple of guys at the bar who’d been arguing over who the first Major League Baseball team was.
Whatever the question and wherever it came from, librarians were trained to find the correct answer.
For a period of time I worked on the switchboard at the library, so my job was to direct questions to the appropriate department. One day I got a call from someone who wanted to know how to waterproof a zipper.
How to waterproof a zipper. I really had to think about where to direct that question. So, I thought, probably not the Sociology Department. Not Language and Literature. Ah! The Science and Technology department. That was it! I put the call through.
These days we Google everything, but Google isn’t university trained like a librarian is.
The good news is that libraries have changed and adapted to modern technology, and have remained very relevant and popular.
There is no excuse to not read a book about something and educate yourself. With a library card, you can also borrow e-books so you don’t even have to go there.
And they have plenty of audio books too. So you don’t even have to read.
And me, when I’m not focusing on my history book, I am into cozy mysteries. But that’s for a whole ‘nother chapter.
Oh, and by the way, the first MLB team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
I Googled it.
Irene Jackson is a guitar teacher, musician and general writer “wanna-be” living in the beautiful city of Victoria, B.C. Her website is at irenejackson.com.