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Today, I started my first shift as a substitute at one of the smaller branches within the library system here in town. I don’t know if it was just the change in the size of the facility, the massive amount of snow on the ground, or some combination of the two, but it’s been a wonderful change of pace. The work is also a lot more along the lines of my old job at my university’s library. Unlike my current job, I’m not one of twenty or so staff members at work. Tonight, I’m one of three. Everyone does a wider variety of tasks. It reminds me very much of the library in my hometown, which was built in a converted house. There’s something very powerful about the atmosphere of an area of such concentrated imagination and knowledge and creativity.

All libraries and bookstores have this effect to some degree, but I’ve found that the smaller the location, the more powerful it becomes. This would account for my love of bookmobiles… I mean, honestly, a library that comes to you? Brilliant. Almost as good as fresh Guinness draught in a bottle. I suppose I could get the same impact with all the books I’ve got in a storage unit at the moment, but they’re all in boxes, so it’s not quite the same. Conversely, take the Library of Congress. I can’t imagine a more overwhelming building full of books in existence, but when I think about all of those books being condensed into a building that had enough room for just the books and none of the soaring ceilings and wide open areas, well…

I’ve planned a dream home around the presence of a personal library. While I am absolutely of the opinion that books should be shared and available to everyone who wants to read them, I’m a little bit protective when it comes to my own collection. I mean, after I discovered how mind-blowingly awesome Watchmen was (Alan Moore is a genius, if not the wizard that he claims), I went out and promptly bought a second copy so that I could lend that one out to my friends. My original copy stays on my shelf. I did the same thing with Salamandastron (still my favorite of the Redwall series) in the fifth grade after I met Brian Jacques. Despite being a mass-market paperback, it’s signed, and so it has a reserved place of honor, while my new-old hardcover (God bless used bookstores) is my reading copy. OCD? Maybe a little. I never claimed not to be. After all, I want to be able to pass many of them on to whatever children or nieces or nephews I may have. I’d like to take good care of them while they’re still in my possession. To me, a good book is worth its weight in gold.

I love me my physical books. I’m not afraid to retread old anti-eReader ground here. I can’t say it often enough. Yes, I support digitization of physical media for archival backup. If a physical copy cannot survive, then at least a digital copy will be available. Maybe then, in the future, someone could reprint a physical copy from the backup. This is just practical. Do I support a complete conversion to digital? No. Flat out. No. You cannot beat a physical book. I’ll happily listen to any defenses of digital readers. After all, I survived for ten months by convincing people of how great they are. If Barnes & Noble ever hires me, I’ll go right back to it. They’re nice, but they’re not right for me.

That much being said, I’ve got my notebook and pen handy. I’m going to write a little more before diving back into A Wizard of Earthsea.


  1. I have an e-reader and at times I use it. My first choice is always the physical copy though

  2. Sounds like a lovely, lovely place!

  3. I know what you mean, there’s nothing better than the smell of books in a library, and you’d like ours. It’s a small town library, and has a lot of lovely old books. I love the smell of the pages, the feel of the binding. I also get your feeling about books that get lent out. I have hardback copies that are mine and that are pretty and mostly for collecting purposes, and then paperbacks that are for lending. I admit to owning a nook, but everything I have on there I also have a physical copy of. I have it for convenience, but I’m finding that I use it less and less, preferring my hard copies every time. I just like the idea that with it I can carry all of Harry Potter, LOTR, Redwall, and Terry Pratchett and not have a backpack that weighs a hundred pounds.

    • Someday, I will invent extradimensional storage space, and then I will keep all of my books in a bag of holding.

  4. BTW, you still need to read Terry Pratchett, you’ll get a kick out of his writing, I’m sure of it.

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