Wednesday, July 6, 2011


6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
Proverbs 4:6-7
The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after  an era new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the heart of men centuries dead. 

- Clarence Day

Library Wonderland

                  Alice found magic when she fell down the rabbit hole.  It can feel the same way when one enters a library. I give nods to all who engage in the e-reader, iPad, and Kindle scene.  I am contemplating purchasing one myself, because they give the world of books a doorway to convenience, but let’s step back to before these innovations occurred. Back…back…back to the time of card catalogs and first editions.  A library, especially an older one, elicits the senses into action. Upon entering through the hallowed doors our eyes observe rows of shelves stacked top to bottom discussing everything from axes to xylophones. To find the novel, periodical, or research information needed you had to use the card catalog system in which everything is categorized in order for easy access.  There you would quietly pull out a wooden drawer and thumb through the index cards to find the appropriate title. Nowadays you need computer skills to access OPAC. (Online Public Access Catalog)  And speaking of quiet, have you ever really noticed the sounds in a library? They are there you just have to stop a moment and listen with a discerning ear. There are hushed muffled voices, and the sound of hard backed books being stacked in a pile before they are dispersed to their appropriate shelf, and the delectable noise of pages turning over.  A computer may be able to make a digital facsimile of paper crackling as its turned, but it sounds much like an electric keyboard trying to interpret the sound of a violin.  Nothing compares to the real thing. There is just something about holding a bound book between your hands as you lick your finger to pull the page over. The simple anticipation of the succeeding word or phrase is tantalizing, as you have to wait a split second for your eyes to adjust to the next line.  You can’t get that from a hard plastic screen.  The other thing, which is hard to mimic, is the aroma. The smell of parchment bound by glue and thread or better yet a classic bound in real leather. Although I did recently see an advertisement for an “in the library smell” spray, I think it could only be a good imitation of the real thing.  How do you blend the musty smell of old worn leather bindings with the smell of frayed paper and wooden shelves with years of rubbed polish? Impossible. This is not to say I wouldn’t purchase the spray if it came at the right price, and was a decent likeness.  But seriously, how does the no fat no calorie mayo compare to its high caloric counterpart, it doesn’t. Only the real thing will do.  Since we are still back in time I have now piled three Nancy Drew novels on top of my arm and made my way up to the check out desk. Once there, I pull out my bent library card and hand it to the prim lady behind the counter. She gives me a cautious look as she writes my name and the name of the title on a list. She then pulls out “the stamp” and with an iron fist stamps the date on the cardstock she has pulled from the pocket on the back of each book. She stacks them on top of each other and gives them to me with a polite if somewhat prudish, grin.  I don’t care.  I’m off to another land, another time, another place.  And for the rest of the evening I will be in Nancy’s shoes discovering the mystery behind the moss-covered mansion, or the secret of the old clock, or the clue in the diary only to return home upon the last flip of the page when I slap the book closed with a hollow thunk. Try that with an iPad. Goodnight.

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