Rayhaan: Even before the printing press was invented, libraries have been a place for people to go when seeking information. In the modern era, they’ve started to take on new meanings. Today, we talk to Ms. Mussachio about this change. From The Panther Eye, this is Roar.
Matthew: So I was wondering, how long have you been working at the library?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, I’ve been working in libraries for over 30 years. First, I worked in a hospital library for a few years and then I came to Sweet Home and was a school librarian. I am a Sweet Home graduate so I was very proud to come back here.
Matthew: How was it at your last job in the hospital library?
Mrs. Mussachio: It was really good it was very interesting, a good starting point. We used to have students who were going to be doctors and nurses who used the library and then, a lot of times, doctors would come running down in their scrubs. Like, in the middle of surgery or in the middle of working on somebody, because they wanted to see if there were drug interactions or if there was something they hadn’t seen before they would have to do some quick research.
Matthew: So, what made you pursue this career?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, I love books, but I love the information environment even more.
Matthew: Do you think in the 21st century, books are starting to lose their meaning?
Mrs. Mussachio: I don’t think books will ever lose their meaning. I think that we have classic things people want to read over and over again. And I really think that as long as people continue to write and want people to read what they write we’re going to have.
Matthew: Yeah, I agree with you. I think books are very important. Especially, it’s a lot easier on the eyes when you’re reading it.
Mrs. Mussachio: There’s a ton of scientific evidence coming out now that reading print, black and white, is easier to read and easier to retain than a screen.
Matthew: It’s also a tangible thing you can hold, you have it, you have a sense of like, “I’m owning this, I’m reading this.”
Mrs. Mussachio: Exactly!
Matthew: How do you feel about books being digitalized? Does it take away some of the experience of reading a normal book?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, we did talk about that. But when you say that, I assume you’re talking about eBooks. And then my whole other feeling about ebooks. It’s a good way to read a book. If you want to read and this is what you have is great, you can take it with you. You can read anywhere. You can read on any device. Unfortunately, what most people don’t realize is that with ebooks, they make the publishing company a ton of money because publishing companies do not give up the rights on eBooks.
When you buy a print book, say 20, 25 dollars, you own it. You can do what you want with it. For libraries, when you buy an ebook, which is usually starting at twice as much as a regular print book, you do not own it, in libraries. We basically rent it and they pull it back or we no longer own it after a certain number of loans out or a certain number of months. So, if I buy a book from an ebook company, suddenly after two after 2 years, I don’t own that book anymore. Even though, I paid twice as much as a print book, so it’s not fair.
Matthew: Yeah, ’cause if you ever want to go back and re-read it, you’re gonna have to repurchase it online. It’s just a waste of time and money.
Do you think libraries have taken on a new meeting, seeing how they’re used as public text centers?
Mrs. Mussachio: The role of the library has always been to meet the needs of the community. So, the needs of the community change and evolve, so the role of the library has got to change and evolve. Here at the high school, we offer tech support because that’s what the students need.
Matthew: Yeah, we’ve all got iPads.
Mrs. Mussachio: Yep, but we also help students fill out jobs and college applications. We help them print papers for class and complete research projects. We prepare students for college, careers and life.
Matthew: Yeah, I remember you guys had the college meeting here in the library a little while ago. That was very informative, helping me out.
Mrs. Mussachio: So, whatever the community needs and that’s not just school libraries, public libraries also. So, wherever they’re located, whatever the needs of the community are that’s what the public library provides.
Matthew: So, has there been a loss of respect for libraries, not in school and just like, overall in the community?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, I think on the contrary, especially in these very uncertain times, people like to turn to trusted institutions like libraries for more reliable information resources. School libraries create a space for students to work together and exploren new technologies.
Matthew: I just use the library all the time to do homework after school and stuff so I think it’s a nice, quiet place to be able to do work.
Mrs. Mussachio: Quite place, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s very interactive.
Matthew: I mean, depending on the crowd in the library.
Mrs. Mussachio: Once again, meeting the needs. If you need quiet place to study we provide that. If you need a meeting space, we’ll provide that.
Matthew: Has the been a decline in books being taken out in the last decade or so?
Mrs. Mussachio: There was when ebooks first came around. People stopped taking out books because it was a new novel idea. Since then, actually print has gone up and our circulation statistics have steadily gone up. So, that’s encouraging.
Matthew: Because I kind of went from a high like eBooks didn’t exist and then they came into existence and everyone jumped on it.
Mrs. Mussachio: And, now it’s kind of leveled out. They’re probably pretty much even. Some years, eBooks are a little less than print books, but pretty much even.
Matthew: Seeing how books are a very useful tool, how would you encourage students to use them more instead of Googling a topic.
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Googling a topic. It depends on what kind of information you need. If we have information in books, I’ll have someone look in a book. Otherwise, Googling a topic is great. As long as you have the skills necessary to recognize good information resources versus those that are outdated or biased or just untrue.
Matthew: So, you got to be careful with your sources
Mrs. Mussachio: Very careful, that’s the thing about books, is when you use a reference book, you know, it’s been vetted. You know that it’s gone through a process where the information in there is pretty reliable, pretty true. When you Google something, you have to pay attention to where that information is coming from and you do have to look for bias and falsehoods.
Matthew: Yeah, ’cause anyone can edit them assuming they have the access to it. And, a lot of these Google searches, they use the reference books as a source, it’s basically just a reuploaded version of that, online.
Mrs. Mussachio: Right, that’s true.
Matthew: So, how has your job changed in the last couple of years?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, with the amount of bad information floating around the Internet and social media, my job has pretty much become helping students be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction. And, of course, iPads.
Matthew: So, do you ever help students if they’re having a social media issue?
Mrs. Mussachio: Well, it’s not so much I help them. That sounds more like that’s Student Services if you’re having social media issues. But, it’s important to know, and I tell friends and family all the time and my own kids, when you’re looking at things on social media, 99% of the time it’s not true. So why pass it on? Because it’s not true. So you’re just helping to spread false information. So, it’s important to kind of, before you send, before you do anything, take a look at it. Is it something that you really want to spread and is it really true?