The Medium Is Not The Message

December 28th, 2004 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

What is your first memory of a library? We honestly cannot say for sure, except that our home was somewhat of a library from the start, what with the mother’s inability to get rid of a book (the great Ray Bradbury incident being an exception). We suppose we first stepped foot into an actual library approximately in the first grade. By the second grade, we were regular as the sun*. To this day, our idea of a good time involves books**.

Despite this, we’ve never been particularly precious about the book in its bound paper format. Maybe because we read cereal boxes with the same enthusiasm we read Pippi Longstocking. Maybe because we’ve never walked into a room without a book or three. For us, it’s never been about the format as much as the words. We like the way words come together, sometimes in sentences, sometimes in half-finished thoughts. Thus we haven’t worried too much about the Google plans to digitize major libraries. It is our belief that making words and ideas more readily available can only be a good thing. Also cheap is nice, but we do understand there are costs.

It is the natural tendency of the traditionalist to fear new fangled technology. We do not believe digitizing books will lead to the Decline. If anything, it will solve the pesky problem created by physical buildings: within those walls, there is only so much space and fire regulations prohibit the activity that comes to most of us as naturally as breathing***.

Without proper care and feeding (which, unfortunately means hermetically sealed), books are fragile creatures. So are bits and bytes. Particularly bits — they have a tendency to play outside in the cold. There are far too many printed words in this world, and far too few places to keep them for posterity. Saving the words will not destroy your ability to breathe book dust. We promise you this.

* – In an amusing coincidence, this was also the year the mother became our elementary school librarian. Needless to say, our ability to get into trouble in classroom ended long before we knew it was an option.
** – Yes, it makes for a wonderful marriage, but it wasn’t like he didn’t know in advance.
*** – Stacking books in every available space and some spaces that aren’t technically available. Note: ovens are bad places for books. Freezers, surprisingly, are good, especially for Henry Miller novels of uncertain literary value.

File Under: Square Pegs

1 response so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // Dec 30, 2004 at 7:57 am

    First memory of the library?? Gosh, that’s a tough one for me, too, because we were always at the library. My town had this tiny library and a wonderful librarian who let me check out as many books as I wanted. I also have fond memories of the summer reading programs where, for every book read, you would get, say, a construction paper hot air balloon, and you’d write your name and title of the book on it and it would be placed on the bulletin board. (And once out of room, on the walls of the library) It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I was full of hot air…balloons. (G)

    I was saddened to discover when I took my son to his first library summer reading program here in Erie that the children were given various prizes just for walking in the library door. No actual reading required. (sigh) Perhaps because the children who didn’t read as many books would feel badly when seeing how many books others read? I have no idea.

    I also recall that the summer I’d finally mastered the card catalog, my library was moving, and didn’t actually have a card catalog availible to patrons.