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Exploration Beyond Books

Posted: April 15, 2019

By: Joshua O'Shea, Young Adult Librarian

A dust cloud blooms on the surface of the red planet. There is no welcome party, there are no banners or noisemakers, no blinding paparazzi. Within view, only dusty planes, arid foothills, and open space. The visitor is a delegate from another planet who traveled millions of miles with no promise of ever reaching the destination. It seems strange that for millions of years, the destination could be seen with the naked eye, standing outside on a clear night. It’s perfectly natural for a great big nothing to greet an unmanned network of wire and metal.

Meanwhile, there are shouts and whoops of excitement in a control room on another planet. The excitement of possibility, exploration, and otherworldliness drove thousands of people to believe in something that might not happen; not this time, not for years, because they knew the mission might fail. But today, NASA’s work through the unknown ends in celebration.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said of the NASA mission, “Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history…InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners, and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team. The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon.”

Exploration is lifegiving. It makes us hunger for more of what we have, and for new things. Seeing the Grand Canyon makes us wonder about the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. If we’ve been on Lake Michigan, we wonder what it must be like to experience the frozen waters of Antarctica.

It can be difficult to manage wanting what we see to be ours, wanting to own it and know all about it, while still letting it be something other than us, knowing it is different and that that is good. The spark when we experience something we don’t expect, or when we’re overcome by majesty, is what ignites our creativity. It drives us to understand and find more. We ask questions such as: What’s it like to see through eyes that aren’t my own? What’s it like to be something different than what I am? — and these can drive us to explore new experiences. This empathetic perspective opens us up to someone else’s world.

At the Glen Ellyn Public Library, we’ve expanded “Game On: Summer Challenge” to be books and more. That “more” is exploring the world with new sense of interest and seeing everyday things in a new light. We want people to experience the great indoors as much as the outdoors — to appreciate the nature we make (by being empathetic) as well as the nature that makes itself (our need to own and understand). Book reading is just as important. Our imaginations take us to places we love but have never been, and places we have never considered. During the library’s StoryWalk at Prairie Path Park, you can wander on foot and in your mind with Pete the Cat. As Pete says, “It’s all good.”

The library strives to provide programs, services, and tools for adventure. Your library is your launch pad and spaceship — onward!