WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Free Internet- But No Free Books

Free internetThe efforts that have been made to increase Internet and information technology availability in this country are quite admirable, especially as it pertains to the youths.

It is good to see that they are being given a tool that may aid their development. In fact, according to the most reliable data, only St Lucia, among Caricom countries, has greater per capita internet usage than Antigua and Barbuda. When you add cell phone usage (many phones are internet compatible) Antigua and Barbuda arrives on top.

But is all this internet and computer technology masking a major problem that is impeding our development? Are all the public computer access centres duping us to believe we do not need public access libraries? Have all the political points (perceived or real) gained by computer hype blinded us so we cannot see to read books anymore? Or do we think that books are obsolete?


While I was asking these questions, someone asked me if I do not think that our people (and our children in particular) can learn from the Internet. And of course, the learning opportunities by way of the Internet are many. From toddlers learning to count to professionals updating their knowledge, the Internet is a valuable tool. However, are we ignoring the role that books play?

Whereas many of us may knock our education system (and I criticize it as well), I want to propose that the bigger problem is our education culture (or lack of). We are creating a population that is not learning to think critically and analyse effectively. Why? Because the basic knowledge that engenders critical thinking is not at an adequate level.


This is the role that books play. Children with a culture of books and reading from books tend to have sharper investigative and analytical skills. They are more articulate, creative, imaginative, and are higher academic achievers. They not only put themselves in a position to learn more, but to impart more.

Please do not think that this is just about taking a shot at the government, or indeed the Internet. I do believe the Internet has done great good; some of us are reading this very article because of it. But I am concerned about the lack of urgency in completing our national library, and the even greater lack of attention being paid to put public libraries in the various communities in this country.

In a study done by AB Credaro, he reported that teachers are observing that there is an ever-increasing number of students undertaking research via the Internet, without any reference to books or other print-based sources. However, these teachers have noted a decrease in the quality of the information with an increase in Internet access.Books vs internet

As it pertains directly to schools, Credaro suggests some reasons why the above is the case. There are over 4 billion publicly accessible websites, of which only 6 percent are educational. The average life of a webpage is 75 days.

He continues that Google, the largest search engine, has indexed less than 18 percent of the available pages. Hence, a great deal of the Internet is hidden or invisible. Anyone can publish a webpage without any authority, or checking that the information is correct, current, or verifiable. Additionally, there are millions of “unpleasant sites” (including pornography) that are just as available to your five year old as to a serial rapist.

He contrasts this to a good school library where the resources are selected by trained professionals, to cater to the students' needs. Because of cataloguing, the material in a library is easily accessible, and a teacher-librarian is on hand to help find information, interpret difficult concepts, and locate information from beyond the physical library.

Of course, the Internet does have some advantages, in that one can access the very latest information, and using the latest electronic technology, can communicate with experts, near or far, quickly, easily, and cheaply.

In spite of this, the research showed conclusively that there is a positive direct correlation between how well students perform, and the quality of the school's library. This study was done in Australia,  the second highest ranking country in the United Nation's Development Index.


The study further showed that when the quality of and accessibility to libraries was impoved in economically disadvantaged areas, the academic standards in these areas improved greatly. Over time, this led to a better quality of life for the people in those areas. This direct correlation was not necessarily seen with the Internet.

It then makes me want to wonder - are we missing the boat to development? In the same communities in Antigua that we claim are impoverished, should we not first put in some public access libraries? If we truly want to educate our people, should we not foster a culture of books?

Yes, a high Internet connection index looks good on paper, and with proper use it can indeed be a great development tool. But do not throw away your old faithful, tried and true friend because of the promise of a new one. Both media can develop together. In fact, the Internet would be more meaningful and have a greater positive impact if we start to invest in public access libraries.

Not only is it a negative impression of our country that we do not have a high quality national public library, but the reality bears out our shame. Just listen to the standard of discussion on most talk radio. So please, while we are giving free Internet, do not forget free books.

Dr. Jerry Simon ( NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre, 462 0631, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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16 Comments In This Article   

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We still need them both.

#16 Dr J Simon » 2010-10-25 23:22

I would not want to believe that any of my learned friends would advocate getting rid of the physical plant of a university or schools because you can study all the material online. Because we all know the great role that schools play.
In the same token let us not underplay the role of traditional libraries because so much information is available on the internet.
Let them work together to benefit us.
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Dr J Simon

Thanks Mr. Emanuel

#15 Dr J Simon » 2010-10-25 23:10

If the internet becomes a means to point us to books_ great. Just hoping that the ministries involved get the picture and net can be used in a positive way.
I am just concerned that with the already widespread use of Internet in Antigua that our development is still lagging behind. I believe that our foundation is lacking and the culture of learning is not prevalent.
Hence a great tool like the internet is being wasted.
Brent I wish you all the best, and hope that ideas like yours can be put in place.
However there are still great benefits to having traditional libraries.
Note the idea is not to knock the internet, I even listed some of its advantages. The idea is to create a base so it can be used effectively.
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Dr J Simon

Free Internet = Free Books

#14 Brent Emanuel » 2010-10-25 14:51

HI, I just wanted to comment briefly. I am currently away from Antigua finishing up my undergrad degree at Wilfred Laurier University. As a (primarily) philosophy student I need to do quite a bit of reading so I began to look for more economical solutions. If internet access becomes more widespread in Antigua it will be possible for persons with limited funding to access more books than ever. Academic books (and publications) are even easier to access in fact one can pay just $100 for a yearly personal subscription to Questia (an online library) that has more than 70,000 books and 155,000 journal articles, and 185,000 magazine and newspaper articles. The government can invest in a shared subscription for all students for considerably less than the $100 per year Questia charges individual users.
The first step is to make sure internet access is widespread, the second is to begin investing in subscriptions like Questia this costs a fraction of the price of buying books and maintaining a library and students will learn more as they have access ot this literature 24 hours per day 7 days per week.
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Brent Emanuel

@ Skyewill

#13 Morris » 2010-10-24 11:20

Thanks for the advice my friend, I appreciate it.
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Morris

#12 Skyewill » 2010-10-24 09:53

@ morris You are a brave solidier and that is what it will take. Have a POA when you do come. Know that living in Antigua is not the same as visiting. Trust no one...no one
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Skyewill

@guest 1

#11 As I C It » 2010-10-24 09:44

It is clear you do not read to well.
That i** of the article, you are on the internet but you do not read.
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As I C It

#10 guest1 » 2010-10-24 09:07

I really do not get the point of this article.
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guest1

#9 CountryMan » 2010-10-24 09:06

Not to take anything away from Dr Simon's well written and thoughtful article.

Despite all the passionate anecdotes here about how much Antigua needs a library How many of you have called your Parliamentary Representative, the Minister of Eduction or the soon to be retired Director of the Library to inquire as the the status of the uncompleted library. How many of you if any have participated in any of the activities of friends of the Antigua Public Library?
You may balance the anecdotes by getting involved in a meaningful way, and join those who are working tirelessly to bring about bringing about change that will make Antigua and Barbuda a place where people gain the social intelligence to live in just and harmony
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CountryMan

@ Tenman

#8 Morris » 2010-10-24 05:30

I know that Antigua is in need of a lot of things, and I have already discussed with my wife that after I retire I intend to commit a lot of time, resources and the wealth of knowledge I have acquired over the years to help with the development of the country. However, I do not intend to run for political office or be aligned with any party.
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Morris

Well said Dr. Simon

#7 Buzzbomb » 2010-10-24 04:56

It is truly shameful how many decades St. John's has gone without a proper Public Library.
I was proud to see the library build by Rotarians in Bethesda a few years back by I doubt it has gotten any support by our elected officials since the ribbon cutting, evidenced by the abandonment of another community library in Jennings that was completely abandoned by the newly elected UPP government only because it was initiated by Molwyn Joseph.
Great article.
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Buzzbomb

great article

#6 fnpsr » 2010-10-24 04:55

This is another down to earth article that cuts at our fabric that exposes a lack of priority on behalf of our leaders. I cannot understand what group of leaders cannot see the need for or the value of having a well stocked library and community branches. Even a mobile library than can frequent the different communities would excite the kids and give them something to look forward to. Nice work Dr. Simon!!

Tenman I agree with your post.

“Let’s fix the little things before we attempt to fix the big things”
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fnpsr

The real reality pt. 2

#5 Dig It » 2010-10-24 04:11

We, as a society, need to get our priorities in order, and stop thinking that those who have reservations with the free internet is either against the government or politically incorrect! Look around on the streets of St. John's, and tell me what do you see? You'll see most/all students on their cell phones and blackberry either talking or texting! Do you see most of them reading a book on the corners? I can't tell a parent how to raise his or her child; however, I'll surely make sure that I try my best that my children have access to books as often as possible, even, if I have to travel to buy them or order them! Thank you, Dr. Simon, for a wonderful and insightful article!
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Dig It

The real reality pt. 1

#4 Dig It » 2010-10-24 04:09

Dr. Simon, this is, if not, your best article! It gets the nail in the coffin because it sends a message to all those in society that needs a dose of reality! There is no doubt that public access libraries would benefit early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary students. They would have access to literature (novels, poetry, journals, among others) and other learning resources! I believe the library can be a retreat for many of our youths to keep them out of trouble at certain times of the day, since idling is a major problem for many of them! I am not against the use of the internet or cell phones, but I believe our youths deserve to have access to libraries to enhance their critical and analytical abilities!
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Dig It

Nice Article

#3 my way of helping » 2010-10-24 02:40

Nice article, really do feel that there are other things which are priority but is not being tend to.
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my way of helping

well said

#2 tenman » 2010-10-24 01:30

Morris the one thing I have noticed both government's consistent in doing is this need for grant gestures that essentially mean nothing. You hear stories of the police having internet access but nothing is said about access to police databases via the same medium. What then happens is this great tool is then used to go and watch porn. There is also this emphasis on not establishing proper foundations, we want a University of Antigua but no one pays attention to the fact that we need a real public library and that our education system before tertiary level is failing us (Only around 30% of our students qualify for college With possible bi-elections the populace needs to increase its insistence that a public library be built and real insistence that solutions be found for our failures in especially maths.
..
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tenman

#1 Morris » 2010-10-24 01:01

Excellent article Dr. Simon. I hope our Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, and the Minister of Finance all take a read of this article and sit down and develop a plan to complete the library, and establish smaller libraries in the communities.
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Morris

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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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