Archive for the ‘Books Beloved’ Category

The Bookless Library?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Got a recent message from a fellow blogger (Dan Curtis) who forwarded an article from Time magazine that chilled my book-loving blood.  It was all about the bookless library. Yep, a library without books.  You heard me. For a book lover, this is not just nasty-sounding; it’s downright depressing.  There is Drexel University’s new Library Learning Terrace, a library with NO books at all, just computers and seats.  And there are half-way measures too:  the vaunted Stanford University trimmed all but 10,000 volumes from its engineering library. The article asks whether a library is really a library without books.  What an issue to debate: will it be the engineers and architects against old fogies like me who love the bound volume?  Two quotes stand out in this article:   One is from Michael Connelly, author of  The Fifth Witness.  He says the library is a “societal tent pole.”  Knock out the pole and the tent comes crashing down.  The other is from Norman Foster, the great architect: he is working on transforming the New York Public Library’s main branch, designing it specifically, he says, for “life beyond the book.”

Is there life beyond the book? Maybe.   But then … what sort of life?

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Books as Props?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

You may have read it too:  that piece in the New York Times Magazine about using books as art, design props, planters, wallpapers, furniture, hiding places for other things.  The creative uses of books, wrote Rob Walker, that “do not involve engaging with words on a page.”  I thought of the stack of books by my bed — nothing creative there. And the little piles of books on stage sets and in houses being readied for sale. Walker refers to the “plenitude” that having books once represented (a library, after all, meant that not only did you have the bucks to buy but the time to read and enjoy all your books).  Then I think of the 200-year-old Salem Athenaeum (a small, historic membership library in Salem MA where I spend some time), and the  shoestring struggles it has to preserve, clean, and store beloved old book collections.  No plenitude there, although it strives to maintain its traditional place as a center of intellectual discovery and discourse.  But like many who still resist the charms of Kindle, who still consider an evening with a printed hardcover to be nirvana, and who would rather buy than borrow a book, I fear for the future of the medium.  I do seriously wonder about the value that future generations will place on printed books.   As a personal historian, my preference is to collect the memories and stories of others and bind them into books that can be passed down, dog-eared, foxed, faded, and frayed with love, and put on visible shelves to remind of the past.  This might be a small lament for what I think might eventually happen to printed books.   Perhaps I will just need to quietly keep doing my part to hold it off …  (August 14, 2010)