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Why do we fly?

December 12, 2011

Why do we fly? I’m sitting on the tarmac, which as far as I can see is
really concrete, and the extensive infrastructure of an airport boggles
the mind.

How is it possible I can be part of all this for just a few hundred
bucks round-trip? What is the real cost, and who pays for it?

This can be asked of anything in our networked society—phone and
Internet service, roads, water and sewer, public libraries.

We flew into Chicago over thousands of distant farms, each an impressive
node of technology itself. Soon, there were highways, cloverleafs, water
towers, suburbs, malls, factories, golf courses, ballfields, swimming
pools, an enormous racetrack, power plants, mines, ah! woods,
cemeteries, railroads, railyards, denser and denser development.
Overwhelming and marvelous at the same time.

Only once could I tell I was over Salida on a commercial flight. From up
high, there’s not much around us, although it’s easy to pick out Salida
in a night-time satellite photo of the U.S.

We’re out there, or rather here, and we’re also connected.

Via our public library, we’re now a little better connected by joining
the Marmot Library Network. Today, we’re one week into life with our new
system. Little bugs are being chased out. I expect that soon we’ll
settle smoothly into this new life.

We had some irritating problems with our public catalog disappearing—not
because of the server but because the name of our catalog kept
disappearing from the Internet. I’ve been finding it OK from North
Carolina, so I’m hoping the problem is now solved.

Some of you have already tried the new ebook service from a company
called Overdrive. I would appreciate hearing from you about this. Once
you’re setup, it seems to work pretty smoothly.

Our new life, then, includes digital books. The Overdrive collection
includes digital audiobooks. The Marmot network is also working with
Douglas County Libraries, which is developing another ebook delivery
system. Much change is ahead in this part of the digital world.

Don’t fret about print yet. One of the excellent things about our
membership in the Marmot network of libraries is that any of us can
request books across twenty library catalogs totalling 1.4 million
titles … with the push of a button. Well, you also have to type your
name and library card number.

Our catalog search is much improved, and in addition to the more
powerful Request button, the catalog includes reviews, reader ratings,
and “tagging” that you can participate in. “Tags” are like traditional
subject headings, except that you can create them.

I hope you’ll explore this catalog at salida.opac.marmot.org
<http://salida.opac.marmot.org>. Sharing is easier with this kind of
library system and this kind of catalog. Later this winter, we’ll also
join the Prospector network, which includes many large public and
academic libraries in the Front Range, giving you push-button access to
30 million library items.

It’s fascinating how people work together, even spontaneously. Before we
took off from Chicago for the second leg of the flight, the flight
attendant started handing out peanuts and pretzels. A little girl popped
up from her seat and asked for Cheetos.

People laughed. But then aisle by aisle, someone else would ask for
Cheetos, spreading the joke forward through the plane. I’m sure you had
to be there, but it was quite pleasant and funny. When “strangers” get
along so easily, it’s hard to use the word “stranger” any further—a
helpful thing for our world.

P.S. Before the end of the year, please try to return anything you
checked out before Dec. 5^th so we can leave our old system behind.
Thank you.

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