“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”Mark Twain
With the expansion of digital media and the rise of e-books, the end of libraries has often been predicted. But libraries are certainly not dying. They are fuelled by the magical power of books.
Books are capable of uplifting and transforming us, they can clarify meaning, provide insight and context as well as recording data and history.
Why do we join bookclubs where we dedicate time to discussing books we have read?
- Books connect us in a way that make us want to share any knowledge or insights we have gained from reading.
Why do we choose to sit in a room where we are surrounded by books?
- Books emit an energy that can inspire us but they also have an effect that calms and relaxes us.
Why do we prefer bookshop cafes when choosing a place for coffee?
- Bookshop cafes are appealing as they create an ambience not found in a room of computers. There is the added benefit of sipping a cappuccino, browsing through books while absorbing the magical atmosphere surrounding us.
In “A Bookshop in Algiers”, Kaouther Adimi writes about a young dreamer named Edmond Charlot who opened a modest bookshop in Algiers in 1936. His shop became the heart of Algerian cultural life, where Camus launched his first book and the Free French printed propaganda during the war.
Closed for decades and converted into a government lending library, its fate was to become a fast food store. When a young man comes to empty the shop of its books, he begins to understand the power of books and the role that they have played in society.
When the Mark Twain library was first closed and later demolished in 2011, it caused outbursts from residents in Detroit. As a library is not just a building, books are much more than physical objects sitting on a shelf. For many years it offered a haven for children and residents as the neighbourhood around the library started to decline.
As there was no provision for the salvage of books during demolition, its shelves of decaying books became a very visible symbol of mismanagement and decay. Why so many books had been left behind to mould dogged the public and the library featured heavily in news stories about the city.
For many years this library had been the social hub of the northeast side of Detroit. Newspapers from the 1940’s and 50’s recorded a variety of events hosted there including a series of lectures on “Problems of Working Girls” at the Detroit Edison Co., Boy Scout troop meetings and the playing of recorded symphonies for the Girls Music Club program.
Traditionally, libraries provided no cost access to books and a quiet place to read. But many of today’s public libraries are evolving and taking on greater roles. They are offering a variety of programs and services to the public with innovative programs for children during school holidays.
The library today can be the place where people discover new skills, learn to create, share ideas and meet other people. Libraries are recognizing the importance of communal hubs where people can gather and enjoy a range of activities in addition to the lending of books.
If you still have not discovered your local library, here are some of the activities you might want to try:
- Join a bookclub
- Listen to author talks
- Learn a new craft or skill
- Participate in discussions
- Play board games
- Find a writers’ group
- Discover art and science
But while you are there, make sure you take time to soak up the atmosphere from the magical power of books. In this current world of digital isolation isn’t it wonderful to be able to “live” in a physical space and enjoy all that awaits you.