I finally have some time to catch up on my blog reading, as well keep up with the book-related news. Here's an old article from Philip Pullman, on loving the library. [full article here]
Thirdly, there’s the infinite value of browsing. You simply don’t know what you’ll find till you’re in front of a range of shelves full of books. Of course they say you can browse on the internet, but it isn’t really browsing; some system or algorithm has done the selecting for you. Much, much better to stand in front of a shelf of books and simply pick them up and look for yourself. You never know what you’ll find — and that’s exactly the point.
When I was packing all my books recently, I grumbled that I am now beginning to appreciate the weightlessness of digital books. And as I was packing my books into my luggage for Dubai, I considered the compact beauty of a kindle - but only for a minute. Deep down inside, I still prefer the physicality of a book. That's why I love libraries, and why I prefer browsing in a physical bookstore rather than buying online.
I agree with Philip Pullman that the physical act of browsing is an important part of the book experience. All these choices, all these possiblities - all just sitting on the shelves waiting for you. You never know what you will come home with, you never know what may leap at you from the bookshelves.
One of the greatest gift we can offer anyone is access to a good library. I am grateful to my parents for making those weekly Saturday trips to the library when I can growing up. I learned from young that joy of running my fingers down the rows of books, of looking, diving in and exploring, discovering for myself as I open strange books with curious titles.
I take great joy in that freedom of browsing, and choosing for myself, what to read. That liberty is something I have come to take for granted. It upsets me when I hear about how people believe they can and should ban books from libraries. (I just read about how Sarah Palin wanted to ban books from the library when she was mayor in Alaska. The idea that a woman like this might become Vice-President of the United States - it freezes my blood.) It reminds me that freedom to read what you want is a priviledge that can be taken away.
And sometimes, you may have to go to a country where you may not have access to a good English-language library (ie. Dubai). That is when you really start to appreciate the library you have back home, in spite of all its flaws.