When I was a young man, the school I went to had a library .. not a media center. Actually, I like the name “media center;” “library” contains that ancient term “liber” which at least etymologically suggests books and is not expansive enough for all the modern media that can nowadays be found in libraries.
Twenty-five years ago my favorite public library was in an adjacent county but was well worth the annual fee I had to cover just to enjoy its advanced and diverse collections.
Almost any public library back then was a good source of free contemporary literature but this often resulted in problems. First, very popular works had very long waiting lists. This was solved in two ways: first, more copies of the book were purchased but when the title lost it’s luster the library was forced to relegate all those expensive copies to the Sale Rack. More aggressive libraries offered an alternative solution: Books For Rent. The library patron was given the choice of reading a book for which they might wait months, or pay a modest per-diem for a fresher copy they could have in only a day or two.
Rental libraries saved money and smoothed out the demand. If aggressive enough, they even made money for the library.
Too many copies of a best-seller was also a shelving problem for many libraries. When all those Dan Brown’s and Danielle Steels needed to be shelved, the Dickens and Flauberts went into boxes for the next book sale. My favorite library, however, made sure there were copies of David Copperfield and Anna Karenina before they added a new Valley of the Dolls.
But the real trick this library presented was to expand the concept of “lending library” to lend out more than just books.
Magazines and newspapers had, of course, always been a part of the library collection. Books-On-Tape were becoming quite popular and eventually even movies on video tape. Such expansions were common in all libraries, but what about sewing patterns, gardening tools, children’s games, sale coupons, and vast collections of clip art? I could go to the library Saturday morning, checkout Tristram Shandy, a post-hole digger, and the Butterick for a fancy party dress in my daughter’s size, and still have time for lunch at the Chili Dog Hut.
Now with the internet it’s Katie-Bar-the-Door and I never go to the library anymore. Of course with the pandemic, I never go anywhere any more.
I do still read a bit (no more post-holes, however) and since my early school library days, I make list of books I have read and books I want to read. Last month I suggested looking into thirty intriguing titles:
11-01-20 – Wagner Without Fear — William Berger
11-02-20 – Paladin — Elizabeth Taylor
11-03-20 – Proud Tower — Barbara W. Tuckman
11-04-20 – How Much of These Hills Is Gold — C. Pam Zhang
11-05-20 – Breasts and Eggs — Mieko Kawakami
11-06-20 – Redhead By the Side of the Road — Anne Tyler
11-07-20 – Slapstick or Lonesome No More! — Kurt Vonnegut
11-08-20 – The Green New Deal and Beyond — Stan Cox
11-09-20 – The Defender of Differences — Kwame Anthony Appiah
11-10-20 – My Sister, the Serial Killer — Oyinkan Braithwaite
11-11-20 – What Day: And Other Poems — Billy Collins
11-12-20 – Vulgar Tongues — Max Décharné
11-13-20 – Bubblegum — Adam Levin
11-14-20 – Memories of the Future — Siri Hustvedt
11-15-20 – On Fire — Naomi Klein
11-16-20 – White Jazz — James Ellroy
11-17-20 – Everything In Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales — Oliver Sacks
11-18-20 – Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason — Dave Rubin
11-19-20 – The Honjin Murders — Seishi Yokomizo
11-20-20 – Blizzard: Poems — Henri Cole
11-21-20 – Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime By Women Writers — Joyce Carol Oates, ed.
11-22-20 – Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in Contrast — George Steiner
11-23-20 – Educated: A Memoir — Tara Westover
11-24-20 – Cosmos: Possible Worlds — Ann Druyan
11-25-20 – August — Callan Wink
11-26-20 – A Long Way Gone — Ishmael Beah
11-27-20 – Seven Ideas That Shook the Universe — Nathan Spielberg & Bryon D. Anderson
11-28-20 – Rembrandt’s Eyes — Simon Schama
11-29-20 – Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes — Ace Atkins
11-30-20 – Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today — Rachel Vorona Cote