The Library

While we were on our recent family visit, we spent some time planning for a vacation later in the year.  Linda & I had been reading the travel books, etc (she more than I) and wanted to go over some ideas with her mother.  Of course, this lead to several additional ideas for which we did not have adequate material in the books which had brought along. Off to the local library. 

This set me to thinking about where libraries are in our rapidly changing society.  The digital age is advancing at such a rate that some question whether books will be around in a generation.  If so, what purpose will libraries serve?

I recall reading about ancient libraries in Greece, Persia, and Egypt.  On our trip to Ireland a couple of years ago, we toured the library at Trinity College, where many illuminated manuscripts are kept, including the Book of Kells.  Though we did not find it, the oldest copy of the Paul’s letter to the Romans (I believe copied around 190 ACE) is in a library in Ireland (long story, let’s just say that Ireland was a long way away from the rest of the religious wars in Europe, so they preserved many items that would have been destroyed otherwise).  We also enjoy touring historic homes, many of which had libraries.  Our own shelves are lined by books, with more waiting books for me to build more shelves some day.

But, now Amazon.com can sell you just about any text, Used-Like-New, for pennies on the dollar.  E-Readers make that pennies on pennies.  E-Readers can put your whole library and wish list “in the cloud” for reading, deleting, and re-loading again.  All that Alexander the Great might have housed in a massive building, you can carry to the beach for summer reading on a devise half the size of a magazine.

So, I wander around the library thinking about times that I found amazing discoveries just by reading the spines of books in sections that I had not intended to investigate.  And, I pulled those books downs and browsed.  I grew up believing that my local library was as big as the Library of Congress.  I found all sots of obscure, trivial, and relevant data at the libraries of the university, which I attended.  We used to frequent the Alexandria library for research and leisure reading.  Our small county has two branches, as well as an independent library in one of the other towns.  I would like to say that we get out to the library regularly, but often the garden or some other task calls on our days off (plus the main branch library is 18 miles over the mountain).

As I wander, I notice services that the library provides in addition to books.  A display features books for Black History Month.  Books on tape, music CD’s, and DVD’s are available in this area.  Children’s activities are sponsored over here.  Brochures advertise community events, concerts, discussions, book clubs, and other social activities.  Art work from local schools is displayed around the building.  All of this, thanks to local taxes, general contributions, and our willingness to be part of a community.

Earlier that morning, I started reading James Michener’s novel, The Covenant, where I found this sentence: “…when men can neither read nor write, when they had nothing external to distract their minds, they can spend their lives in minute observation, and if they have thousands of years in which to accumulate folk wisdom, it can become in time wisdom of very high order.”

What do you access through your local library?

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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4 Responses to The Library

  1. Barney says:

    Great piece. We also saw the Kells in Ireland a few years ago. Information is more easily available now and in greater volume. What’s missing is the sense of accomplishment of finding just the right information in the old stacks of a true library.

  2. Mother Suzanna says:

    I love libraries, but even I have sub combed to the e-reader. Why,? Well, I can make the font and the space between the lines bigger. I think that comes with age. I grew up in a small town that had a Carnegie Library and spent countless happy hours reading book after book. Now I mostly get DVD’s from our local library which has a large display of all the e-readers and gives seminars on how to buy the right one and how to use it. I hope “real books” will still be a part of life on planet earth. There is something wonderful about turning a page on “a good read”.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I would like to read all of the books that we have accumulated in our own library. The range of fascinating topics keeps expanding! Shall I inherit your e-reader some day, too?

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