A soldier's work is more than just a job

Your April 8 article, "Oceans away, US troops crave approval at home" showcased some complex issues of public opinion about the war on Iraq.

I was touched by the comments of American soldiers who expressed their doubts about a nebulously defined mission and wondered how they would be treated upon their homecoming.

The article reminds us that soldiers are thinking, feeling, conflicted human beings. But I was left angry by the closing comments of Sergeant Roberts: "I'm just a soldier - if I have to shoot someone, it's nothing personal, it's just a job." Anytime you take another human life it is intrinsically personal. You are not "just soldiers." You represent this nation and your actions have enormous repercussions. How could anyone think "it's just a job"?
Jennifer Haydu
Pacific Grove, Calif.

Is culture making a comeback?

Thank you for the April 7 article "With war raging, art exhibits offer a respite." Despite compassion for troops on both sides, my conviction remains that war is ultimately futile, obsolete, boring, spiritually empty, and 100 percent ugly. So it is interesting to see signs of something of a knee-jerk pursuit of the beauty offered by art museums. Fine art is love, caring, what Frank Lloyd Wright described as blossoms of the soul - the very opposite of terrorism. Artists know that heeding and guarding the quickening force of the creative urge - whether in the making of a poem or a pudding - eclipse hostility and destruction. Will renewed global revulsion against war neutralize the technology fixation and swing popular focus home to genuine culture? One can imagine and hope.
Dee Treacy Babcock
Santa Monica, Calif.

Librarians, the next generation

The April 8 article "Outlook mixed for nation's librarians" states: "Gone are the days when librarians mainly checked out books. The nexus of computers has made research and multimedia software skills a key feature of graduate education in library science."

I am under the impression that I was doing something worth the money back in 1973 and 1983 and 1993, even before the Internet took us by storm. And before me, my predecessor was magnificently filling the needs of students in the 1950s.

We selected books to support curriculums, which meant combing a myriad of selection tools, consulting with teachers, staying current with world events and students' interests, and networking with each other to share gems. We published articles about current themes in research with bibliographies of source materials. We invented methods of preservation, presentation, and communication that set the stage for the PowerPoints and websites of today.

One of the reasons that my skills in surfing the Internet are as sharp as they are has to do with the years of turning my mind into a thesaurus to find information filed in card catalogs, encyclopedias, and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.

When we discuss the difference between keyword searches and directory searches, we are merely updating our vocabulary from the days when we lectured about indexes and tables of contents.

We are professional librarians. We have been professional librarians for generations. It is a humbling activity to imagine the creative work done by those who came before us. Do the kids coming out of school now with fresh master's degrees in library science tucked in their backpacks have excellent "multimedia software skills?" We can only hope. They will need much more than that.

There were never "days when librarians mainly checked out books."
Richard Moore
Costa Mesa, Calif.

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