“Libraries are not child-care facilities, but sometimes feral children raise themselves among the stacks.”
That’s from one of my all-time favorite, if not outright favorite, authors: Neil Gaiman. You might know him from works like “Coraline,” “American Gods,” or, my favorite, “Good Omens,” which was co-authored with the late Terry Pratchett.
It’s not hard to figure out that I love books and reading. Like Gaiman, I have several fond memories of heading down to my local library after school or on a weekend, where I was determined, as a kid, to read every book in the young adults section. (Unsurprisingly, I never reached that goal, but I like to think I made a nice dent.)
Libraries are, undoubtedly, one of the best ways find books and information. And, as you probably are already aware, many libraries are in danger of shrinking or disappearing altogether.
Just as several chain bookstores – like Chapter 11 and Borders, to name a few – have gone the way of Blockbuster: discussed now only to talk about how old you are, that you can still remember going into their stores.
Experiencing these closures in real time definitely hurt. But none hit so close to home as when the Roswell Bookmiser pulled up stakes, after decades of selling used books.
It almost sounds silly to get emotional about a store closing. But used bookstores, like libraries, offer so much more than just selling a product.
They’re often gathering spaces for book clubs, authors and fans, and one of the best places to go to get a personal book recommendation. There’s no rush to get in and out. They’re warm, inviting spaces that encourage you to take all the time you need to find that one, perfect book for you, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
And, unlike new bookstores, used bookstores carry books that aren’t just the most popular or successful books, the names you’ve heard a million times over.
I’ve found some real gems among the teetering stacks of Bookmiser that I would have never found otherwise in person or online, if only because I had no idea they existed. I can’t tell you how many favorite authors or new series I picked up this way.
But now, ironically, with the internet and so many bookstore closures, it’s become harder and harder for me to find new books to read. Yes, the classics and bestsellers will always be there. And don’t get me wrong – I love ebooks and how portable they are.
But there’s just something so viscerally different about holding a physical book and flipping through the pages before you commit to it. It’s one less screen to look at. And I wouldn’t be anywhere near as upset if I lost a physical book than an expensive Nook or Kindle.
I’ve heard many times that smell is the sense most closely associated with memory. If you ever doubt that, just walk into any bookstore and take a whiff.
I will leave you with this.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Warsaw, Poland for a month. One of the oddest things about it that stuck with me the most was how easily accessible books of all types, old and new, were.
It is a culture in love with reading, and it shows, with every book store found on almost every block corner. There were even traveling book cart shops – something I’ve never seen in person before – at almost every train and metro stop.
Can you even begin to imagine something like that here?