To the Editor:
Where are the books?
I attended the recent book sale at the main branch of the Warwick Public Library and, once again, felt a tug at my heartstrings! There were books for sale that had been culled from the library’s collection. Lots of them. Adult and children’s books.
During the past year, I’ve watched as some library shelves became empty and the library spaces became devoted to things other than actual books. Progress, that’s what it’s called. “Get with the 21st century!” says my daughter.
Is it progress when books are disappearing? Kindle, Nook – enemies, as far as I’m concerned. In San Antonio, a new $1.5 million library facility “will not house a single printed book, but will offer 100 e-readers on loan, and 10,000 digital titles accessible to readers via their home computers and digital devices, with more being added regularly.” (SALON –Internet website)
Computer monitors are replacing the awesome experience of holding a printed book in one’s hand. The feel, the smell, the sight of book pages. Oversize, tiny, normal. Thick and thin. Different fonts, paper, book jackets. Turning the pages. Bookmarks. The whole experience of reading a printed book is a part of my life. Every day, I get to hold a book. My home library shelves groan with my book collection. I can browse my books, touch them, and get lost in their words. An electronic book doesn’t give this emotional attachment. One can only see a single page or section at a time. The heft of “Gone with the Wind” with it’s glimpse in the Civil War, the lightness of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which belies the depth of the story, this doesn’t happen with a book that doesn’t exist except in the electronic world.
Will bookstores disappear? Already, Barnes & Noble’s store has reduced the printed books they offer for sale. When entering the store, the most prominent feature is the large open space devoted to their electronic books.
Toys and gifts departments have increased in size, while actual books have been reduced.
Is it just my generation who misses the books? Born in 1945, my life has been filled with books. From the golden books of my childhood, the Bobbsey Twins stories of my young years, and the Nancy Drew mysteries that filled my early teen years, I’ve grown up with books. Mom always has a book at hand. I’ve shared picture books with my children and grandchildren. We’ve read about Spot, Clifford the dog, Curious George, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella. The colorful illustrations are part of the excitement. Pop-up books. “Where’s Waldo?” “The Hungry Caterpillar,” with a hole on each page to put a finger through.
I spoke with Wil Gregerson, the Library’s public relations representative, and he has explained what is happening, such as it’s more pleasant to browse the stacks when they are not overstuffed with books, and that within all the libraries within the state, there is at least one physical copy of every book and requests can be made through the CLAN system. Practical? Yes. Yet, it doesn’t replace the actual book being on the shelf and available for discovery.
It saddens me each time I enter the library. I want to gather all the books and hoard them. Give me the books that are being discarded. Let me build a museum to display what used to be…