I don't get many complaints about the library. But when I do, I'm mostly grateful. Complaints are useful. Sometimes they point up areas of my own ignorance. Sometimes they highlight a shift in public use or attitudes. Sometimes they just give me the opportunity to fix something that went wrong.
This week -- between a full moon on Friday the 13th and the Equinox (which may not mean anything, but does feel inauspicious) -- I got two complaints on the same day. Both of them got to me, bothered me in a way that doesn't usually happen.
It started when a school librarian posted a question on "libnet," an Internet-based bulletin board. A principal had asked her to come up with a list of titles that high school students should read before they go to college.
What books would we recommend?
My wife and I used to follow old Route 66 from Chicago to Arizona.
It was exciting to see the stretches that were still a vibrant "America's Main Street." There were the distinctive old Phillips 66 gas stations. There were the first motels (a word created from "motor" and "hotel"). There were hundreds of mom-and-pop local eateries.
But about 20 years ago, Route 66 was strangled to death. It was replaced by (in succession) I-55, I-44, and I-40.
Well, mankind (in the form of Dr. Ian Wilmut, a Scottish embryologist) has cloned a sheep. Cloning, for those of you who don't follow such things, is the replication of an individual member of a species. The famous baby sheep is an exact genetic copy -- the identical twin -- of another, adult sheep.
Straight away, pundits began speculating about the ethics of cloning a human being (although science is still a ways from knowing how to do that).