Friday, March 23, 2012

Chucked out at the library (the sequel)

More people read and commented on my previous post -- the one about being unable to find three of Charles Dickens' novels in any branch of the Public Library -- than ever before, so I wanted to share one more round of thoughts. (In this case "ever before" means "during the month this blog has been around," so I tempered my excitement.)

Someone helpfully pointed out that "Dombey and Son" (which I bought today in a store for used books), "Martin Chuzzlewit" and "Barnaby Rudge" were all available for free as downloads. Yes, I knew that. But not everyone reads books on computers or portable devices -- some people don't even own such things -- and making hard copies of books available to them matters, especially when older folks raised on the classics are the likeliest readers for such titles. (And least likely to download them.)

An e-mailer said it wasn't a library's job (I'm paraphrasing here) to fill shelves with obscure books. I don't insist we keep the complete catalogue of Henry Handel Richardson. But we're talking about the most prominent English-language novelist of the 19th-century, whose collected works would fit on about three feet of shelf space.

Someone else made a disparaging comment about libraries not being museums. But one of their jobs -- only one, but a big one -- is to be exactly that: a preserver of culture, made available for free to residents of this county in formats that all of us can use.

Otherwise, what's the point of having a physical library at all? Why not just have ten dozen employees sitting in a windowless office somewhere off Arrowood Road, linking patron after patron to digital books and music and streamed video? That may indeed be the library of the future, long after I'm dead. I look forward to not seeing it.


Alex DeLarge said...

Lets call the modern day Public Library what it is - an internet cafe where kids without PCs at home can maintain their Facebook pages and look up lyrics to hip hop songs. No longer is it a quiet, clean place to enjoy a book or study.. Its a loud, whirling dervish of laptops, people talking on their cellphones, playing video games, and homeless people wandering around keeping warm or cool, and having bowel movements in all the restrooms.

Time to get rid of them. They dont serve their original purpose any more, at all.

Clay Aiken said...

I would rather have a surprise, involuntary, dry rectal exam then go to the library.

Anonymous said...

Clay Aiken, you clearly have a problem. I have read this same comment from you to multiple stories in which you express a preference to having a finger probing your butt hole to reading the story. Please spare us and keep your proclivities a private matter.