The moral of the story is this: libraries and the internet, the flow of information and the nodes that seek to connect people with–and through–this information, are changing, and these changes are important and relevant and good.
Now, I seriously doubt anyone reading this blog disagrees with that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s what the kids are calling a “no-brainer.” But when you’ve got US senators claiming the internet is a series of tubes that needs to be regulated in favor of large corporations, when you’ve got libraries closing their doors during peak hours because a community won’t help deal with unruly patrons, when you have libraries blocking computer access to sites like MySpace and Flickr, it sometimes feels necessary to remind people that the internet and libraries are important and relevant and good. Giving examples, grounding this in the Real World, can help. And so…
The story of the moral is this: My father’s biological father, Earl, was pretty good at procreating, but not nearly as good at sticking around and being a real parent. Ten years before my father was born, Earl fathered a girl named Doris. He didn’t stay with Doris’ mom, though, and eventually ended up with my grandmother, Mary, with whom he had my dad. That relationship also didn’t last, and Earl never had much of a role in my dad’s life (not a direct role, at any rate). Earl eventually got involved with yet another woman, and ten years after my dad was born (Earl seems to have spawned in decade-long increments), Earl fathered a boy named Victor. My dad always knew he had a half-sister out there somewhere, but didn’t know where to find her. He had heard rumors of a half-brother, but was never sure if the rumors were true.
My dad had decided to try and track down his half-sister, so he had registered on some genealogy websites, posting his information and who he was looking for. About two months ago, he got a message regarding his posts–not from his older half-sister, but from Barbara, the wife of the younger half-brother he’d never known really existed. My dad was stunned. He had email and phone conversations with Barbara and Vic, hitting it off with both of them. They decided to intensify the search for half-sister Doris. Through a combination of research on the internet and phone calls to distant libraries, they finally found Doris, alive and (relatively*) well in Michigan.
My dad has been in a state of profound amazement and joy for weeks now. In a recent phone conversation, he said to me, “It’s like I lost an arm when I was nine, and it was recently found, and the doctors told me it could be reattached.” He also said, “I could not have done this without libraries and the internet.”
Real people. Real information. Real connections. Real stories. And a moral.
* Pardon the pun. It was unintentional. Honest.