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Thursday, November 12, 2009

TEACHING RAINBOWS (Part 25)

The following continues the serialization of Chapter 3 on education from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. (I might add that it is now too late for the University of Hawaii. A decade and a half ago, we might have had an inside track. Today, we missed the boat...AGAIN.)



One Final Suggestion: Virtual Libraries


Hopefully this will not irritate yet another sector of society, but I think libraries are obsolete. Every education budget attempts to take care of maintaining a progressive book collection system. In particular, at universities, students will virtually riot if they perceive any library service cutbacks. However, this is not because they are protecting the sanctity of knowledge. Students use libraries to study, sleep, get out of the heat or cold, USE THE FREE COMPUTERS and, of course, now and then search the stacks.


That was fine and necessary a half century ago (SAVE FOR, OF COURSE THE FREE COMPUTERS...THERE WAS NONE) when I was in college, but beginning now, all libraries should as soon as possible be converted into virtual learning centers. I am in engineering, and maybe we are an odd lot, but I know of no faculty associates who depend on the library for any services. Everything today is done on the computer using the internet.


Google and a host of other dot.com firms are quickly converting all journals, books, maps and anything a library shelves for electronic access. The library of the future will be virtual, and if your library hasn’t yet begun the process, it is never too late.


The upside is that those immense structures can now be utilized for other needs. What will be the fate of all those books? Well, people collect them, and a gigantic book sale can be held to clear the stacks, while creating an endowment.


I recall a dozen or so years ago being on a campus improvement committee. At some point I recommended that the new library currently under construction become a virtual library, and certain floors instead be used to support technology development initiatives, allowing companies to use them in partnership with the university to commercialize our research results. In those days, the concept was relatively new, and I felt, with some confidence, that we might have the inside track through our Stanford University connections linking with Google and a couple other companies in Silicon Valley to serve as the first wave of electronic centers.


While it was not particularly surprising, the reaction of the committee was swift and condemning. This was particularly invective from the humanities side of the aisle, and from students. I was effectively blackballed from the committee and lost any respect I previously might have had. I still kick myself today for backing off and not being any more convincing, for, at the least, I could have orchestrated a presentation from Google. However, like most people on campus, I was too busy to focus on this dubious need, so the world swept by the University of Hawaii, again.


Now many years later, I’m writing this passage in my hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. There is an ongoing municipal strike that has affected the city for two months. Garbage collection is a pain and libraries are closed. Interestingly enough, people are mostly complaining that they are being deprived of using the free library computers. No one is missing the book borrowing part. If this is not a sign of things to come, I don’t know what can be.


The beauty of a virtual library is that all of the budget item called libraries will continue to gain public support, so, transitioning to an all-electronics version should start with plentiful seed funds, and, over time, save a lot of taxpayer money. Thus, even college students will be supportive, for actual space can now be set aside for their dozing off use, but more so, for conveniences such as wireless internet access, video-conferencing, use of next generation digital media facilities and the like. The greater benefit, of course, will be the cost-effectiveness and enhancement of the educational process.

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The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 94 to 10197, while world markets were mixed. Finally, after an extraordinary run, gold fell $18/toz to $1103, while crude oil slipped to just under $77/barrel.
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THERE ARE NO MAJOR MARINE STORMS, OR EVEN DISTURBANCES, ON PLANET EARTH!
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Background
What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717. The territories of the Viceroyalty - New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito - gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the "Republic of the Equator." Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito have contributed to the mid-term ouster of Ecuador's last three democratically elected Presidents. In 2007, a Constituent Assembly was elected to draft a new constitution; Ecuador's twentieth since gaining independence.

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