Multiplying words

Nov 9, 2001

For many people, books offer a respite from the chaotic frenzy that often marks our existence.

For many people, books offer a respite from the chaotic frenzy that often marks our existence. These individuals envision a world where reading is crucial for both our life and livelihood.

Some think the Internet and other electronic technologies may potentially reduce the need for the printed book. Some of the more advanced versions of today's palm pilots, for instance, have the capability of downloading an entire chapter from a novel or even a complete book. Thus, this tiny electronic device that fits neatly into the corner of a briefcase offers one a chance to "experience" literary art at the click of a button. No folded pages, no ragged cover to string together with tape, no need to mark favorite passages in pencil, no additional weight to bear as one treks across the parking lot on a cold wintry morning. But no matter how the work is presented, it still requires reading.

Yet for people who work with books every day, computer technology presents opportunities for an enriched reading experience we wouldn't normally contemplate during every day life. That's why Denise Marshall isn't shy when explaining the reasons she views her role as Kettering's new reference and public services librarian as an opportunity to create readers in this veritable sea of engineering, science and business students savvy in the way of computer technology.

"We need to create readers," Marshall explained, "even if people use some form of a screen to read, they still need to read."

For Marshall and others like her, the advent and use of electronic technology has given birth to new words and ideas with a speed and acceptance unmatched by any other invention except the moveable type printing press. She sees the creation of computer technology as one major reason new words have multiplied and suggests that it's important people understand the relationship between technology, reading and the need for printed books.

"Computers haven't made the need for reading materials diminish," she said. "In fact, they've added to the development of new words."

To further emphasize this point, the publishing industry, which Marshall said was slow to accept and incorporate electronic technology into its business practices, is now trying to take full advantage of the web and other sources of electronic communication to sell more books. This is new territory for publishing houses. But she warns one problem is inherent with this situation: "What happens when technology breaks down, as it sometimes does? I think this question is becoming more important. The result is that paper is still the safest and most durable material for preserving and containing a culture's memory."

"Computers haven't made the need for reading materials diminish....In fact, they've added to the development of new words." -- Denise Marshall

Marshall's question about the possibility of technology breaking down is one a Kettering student may some day try to answer. Since her arrival on campus in September, one aspect she has noticed about Kettering is the intensity with which students pursue their studies. At the same time, she understands that because of class schedules, homework assignments and that all-important social life, not all students are able to take full advantage of the Kettering University Library, which continues to enhance all of its printed and electronic resources.

"Kettering students are very focused, perhaps more so than students at other schools because of our co-op program, and use a combination of books and on-line material," she said. "Since they are so focused on specific subjects, it's important for them to learn how to synthesize material from different aspects of their discipline. I am impressed by the number of professors who provide class projects that attempt to foster the ability and need to synthesize information."

Gaining broader and more frequent use of the library by professors and their classes is one of many goals Marshall hopes to achieve for the library. Some of her other goals include updating the collection as much as possible and creating a stronger awareness of the library.

But perhaps her most important objective is to attract more students to use the resources available in the library. As computer technology continues to expand and influence the way that we conduct business, the need to use a mix of media words will also expand. Marshall hopes this trend will encourage students to use the library more extensively and intensively.


Written by Gary Erwin
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