Like so many of you, I am a voracious reader, and also like so many of you, I passionately support my local library. The past few years have seen some interesting changes, shifts in what - and how - America reads. Right now, with money still tight (no matter who proclaims this recession over), libraries are enjoying a resurgence of patonage. But, what will happen when the economy truly picks up? Will sales of "real" books rebound? Will the price of Kindles fall, and that kind of "book" capture more and more readers? No matter how libraries, books and Kindles continue to find and strengthen their niches, our reading life certainlyIS changing.
I've recently finished a delightful book called Little Heathens, recommended to me by my fellow "little heathen" from our teen years in Marblehead MA. It's a memoir set in Iowa during the Great Depression. Interestingly, I found it in the history, not biography, section of our library, but then it IS a remarkably detailed picture of a time and a place worth visiting.
Now, my son-in-law Shaun swears that I've never met a book I didn't like. Not true! Of course I can't imagine life without reading, but books themselves... ahhh, the smell, the bindings, the deckled-edge pages, the varying fonts, the sense of the person who lifeblood is inked on those pages....
And, so, I do love libraries too. I'm endlessly grateful to Mr. Carnegie, his vision and his initial support of that great egalitarian project, the everytown public library. I live in a small town, I don't think we've topped 10,000 in population yet, but we have what I consider a first-class library.
As in so many small towns across the country, our Merrill Memorial Library is housed in an old building, ours one of considerable grandeur and space. In addition to the truly eclectic book collection, there are many varied magazines, videos, and audio books plus, an incredible, multi-faceted children's program. I could not live without the garden, craft, travel and cookbooks available FREE right downtown.
There are art exhibits, evening author programs, poetry workshops, knitting and quilting groups that meet at MML, all of these well beyond the scope of Mr. Carnegie's original vision. But, this place, this heart of the community, like so much of our western civilization, all began around books.
And then there are Kindles. A number of my adult children have Kindles, the amazing reading device from Amazon.com. It IS stunning! In its size, features, capabilities, and yes, just plain practicality. For someone like me who loves to read in bed at night... well, those Harry Potter tomes can be hard to hold up, you know! And, yes, I do have a reading pyramid that I love.
The size of a slim 5x8" picture frame, a Kindle feels lighter than that picture frame with its glass. And, while I'm certainly not here to sell Kindles, I can see what it could mean to many readers. While our library has a small selection of large-print books, with the Kindle you can adjust the size of the font you're reading. As America ages, what a gift that may be.
If you travel a lot or it isn't easy to get to the library often, the accessibility of thousands upon thousands of titles, magazines, even blogs, downloadable in something like 60 seconds, is mind-boggling. And the Kindle can store something like 1,500 books for your perusal. Part of me really, really wants one, while another part of me feels disloyal at the mere thought.
Do you think there will come a time when our libraries have Kindles to borrow just as we do those audio books? Maybe we could rent Kindles from the library to take on vacations. I know our libary has been reporting increased circulation numbers in recent months, and while that may reflect this economic downturn, it is a hopeful sign that America's small towns are still reading!
Books, no matter how you access those written words, are an incredibly rich part of our daily life, and this country's library's are one of our richest small-town AND big-city resources. While a Kindle can offer the access, it will never replace the sense of community that our libraries often provide. Have you thanked a librarian today??
I'm currently hooked on Scandanvian and Icelandic mysteries... please let me know what you're reading these days!