Thursday, January 12, 2017

On Books

Will there come a time when books will be obsolete?
Honestly, I don't think so, and I certainly HOPE not.
But a recent visit to the University library (research!) got me thinking. I was wandering around, looking for books, and all around me I was surrounded by young people on their computers. Were they studying? Perhaps. Probably.
But it begs the question, why do we need this library for them to study in? They could study in any structured space that gave them some privacy and some quiet. None of them (none!) was looking at a book. Not one!
On the plus side, when I walked among the rows and rows of books, I felt at ease. The smell of the books, many of them old, was familiar. I know my way around a library.
But for how many of the younger people (how many? how young? who can say!) is information and the idea of a text a wholly virtual and non-tactile thing?
My son certainly loves books, but he grew up with me and my husband. My husband, whose philosophy is "one cannot have too many books!" If my son expresses an interest in an idea, my husband buys him a book about it. Which is a great thing, and has made my son a fantastic and broadly read person.
But so many others don't know and don't care about books.
I suppose I (and others like me) are dinosaurs in our love of the actual, physical book. I know others love the book, but enough others?
And I don't necessarily think the death of the library as a place that houses books as a bad thing. I often go to the downtown public library and I think of it more as a social hub than one whose focus is primarily books. People go there to use the computers. And yes, to find books. But also to hang out, to find shelter, to use the bathroom, to sit at a table and exist.
So what is the future of the book and what is the future of the library?

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