February 17, 2011
That's a concept that hit the nation, specifically during the recent storms. "If you don't absolutely have to be out, STAY HOME," came the repeated announcement from the official weather reporters. One might logically assume that the public library does not fall into the category of essential services, but try telling that to our patrons. "I missed you so," some patrons said. "But we were only closed for parts of two days," we replied. "Surely you knew we'd reopen very soon." And yet, their obvious anxiety over the lack of access to the library was evident in their voices. Why is this the case, I wondered? Looking around, though, I came up with an answer I can live with: only here can a reader get his/her hands on an actual book without buying it. Computer access makes it possible to do so many things and partake of so many information sources that we might assume that readers could find some avenue of information gathering that doesn't require a book or a library. Access to library services and information through the our website offers an almost limitless supply of goodies and necessities. And yet, the absence of an actual book when you want one must be the big issue. It must be that we crave the tactile contact and the personal control of the medium. In other words, we love books. eBooks, iBooks, audiobooks, and all other formats have their obvious benefits, but nothing can take the place of a book. From our earliest years of reaching out to grab the pages of the books of our parents, to our first opportunities to read a book on our own, the magic of that combination of ink and paper has yet to be replaced.
So, next time you think about your contribution to the general emotional health of our society, take a look at those nearly breathless patrons who come crowding through the doors when the roads are cleared and the library thankfully re-opens. Keep the books moving.