JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
Internet, television, smart phones and even handheld reading devices are replacing books, and furthermore, the necessity for libraries.
This is arguable, of course.
Many people believe these conduits of critical information are simply old-fashioned and out of date.
Today, libraries are often considered as easy targets for budget cuts, and non-essential to a functioning city, town or state. After all, it’s only the library, right?
Scooter Hayes, better known as Melvil Dewey, the international library hip-hop superstar, visited some of the youth in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune housing area and held a story rapper session at the Tarawa Terrace Community Center, Nov. 4.
Hayes has made use of his own creative spirit and love for libraries to educate youth on the permanent value of libraries. He is a protector of knowledge. He is one of the few, the proud – the librarians.
Hayes started story “rapping” for kids at the New Hanover County Library in Wilmington, N.C., in 2009.
He caught kids’ attention by being loud, crazy and educationally interesting. He would slip into the role of hip-hop librarian Melvil Dewey and kick off a fundamentally funky rhyme, or two.
“I began working in a library in Wilmington, N.C., and during my studies (getting my masters in Library Science) I was in a cataloging course and was learning about the Dewey decimal system,” said Hayes. “I had to either write a paper or do a video. So I created a rap music video, called the Dewey Decimal Rap.”
The video has been described in many ways – outlandish, wacky and dope, to name a few. Over time, the instructor of the course liked his video so much, it was used to teach future classes and even went viral online.
Like all viral videos, it has been reproduced and imitated by thousands of fans – the majority of whom Hayes has never even met. It was also named one of the nine funniest library videos of all time by the Huffington Post.
“People started to request shows and I even put together 15 songs on a full length album called the Melville Dewey Library Hip-Hop: Deweylicious,” said Hayes. “Since then, I’ve been continuing to work at the library because I’m a librarian, but I’m also pursuing a career in hip-hop for kids.”
Today, his video has more than 500,000 hits on YouTube, and Hayes is actually in negotiations to turn his act into a picture book and even distribute the songs worldwide in 2012.
“We’ll see where it goes,” said Hayes. “I’ve been getting requests for shows all over America.”
Judy Bradford, library branch manager aboard the base, said Hayes visited the base several years ago and participated in a program for the children. She describes him as fun, entertaining and full of energy.
“It’s really nice that he’s a librarian himself and that he understands the mission of trying to get children interested in reading at an early age,” said Bradford. “He puts a lot of passion into what he does because he truly believes in spreading the message about literacy. We enjoy having him come out. He doesn’t mind acting silly and the kids just love it.”
Bradford said libraries are for people to not only seek information but also to find recreational materials, and that the base libraries’ mission is to provide recreational and educational materials to the troops and their families.
“I think we’re very important and that we want to be the center of the community,” said Bradford. “We have something for all ages, from the little preschooler all the way through adulthood. There’s something for everyone.”
Bradford added that aside from having the capabilities to meet the community’s educational needs, the library’s relevance is doubly important during the nation’s economic status.
“Today, people aren’t able to spend as much on books and DVDs as they have in the past,” said Bradford. “The expenses of just buying groceries now are much higher than it was years ago. I think (the library) is a great, no-cost resource – it’s all free.”
Hayes said the importance of his show is to get kids excited about going to the library, advocating reading, why reading is important and why libraries are vital components of communities, overall. Also, the fact that libraries across the nation are struggling gives Hayes fuel to his fire.
Hayes summed his new-found purpose in a few words.
“I think it’s important to teach the next generation of library-goers why they are important,” said Hayes.
Lorraine Fuller, a recreation specialist with the TT community center, said anytime that someone can get children involved in something other than video games and television, it’s a great thing.
“This guy is making the Dewey decimal fun – who would have thought that could have been fun?” said Fuller. “The kids get into it and it’s very inspiring to make library science exciting.”
Fuller added that libraries in communities are definitely important to have and believes they put the world in ones hands.
“You can do anything at the library especially today, with computer access, resource sections and children’s sections,” said Fuller. “They even do special programs for kids. (Hayes) coming out and doing this event for us was an extension of what libraries can offer. We were happy to have him.”