The fond perfume of a flicked-through paperback flowing past your nose, it’s a challenge to fly past any bookstore, let alone a library. Libraries offer an inherent sensory desire; built in to our genes through centuries past. That’s only the start. Think back to the first time you picked up a book, felt its weightiness in your palm, and succumbed to the power of its mass of knowledge. Now look around, observe. Observe the people; see how the magic of a narrative can intrigue, how time is an infinite resource… in a library. Time has many perceived lengths — sometimes it is fast, other times it takes an eternity. In a library, time does not matter; its ceaseless boundaries have no meaning as we are immersed in the knowledge and fantasy of the narrative. Plus, the indulgent nature of studying in a library renders it better than chocolate. The quiet tapping of keys, whirring of computers, the odd cough — all characteristic of the true library experience.
Irresistibly ostentatious are the best libraries, offering not only books, but also the wonders of someone who is able to offer advice on what to read next. A college librarian is responsible for the enrichment of students’ lives in this arena; one where sports exist in imagination and the possibilities of success are woven into the narrative. And when you’ve sped through an irresistibly powerful story, the librarian is there to pick you up and guide you to your next immersive fantasy. Or, if you prefer, you can talk on the War, or model aeroplanes, or learning Russian… For a librarian’s knowledge is imbued with passion and fact, history and new-age teachings.
Ornately designed with carved wooden shelving, some libraries provide a spectacle not only in their fiction but also in their design. Each one different: some with magnificent walls arching over the shelves, others preferring a modern façade inspired by natural form. The ones that are merely a room are just as good, as a library anywhere is a galactic amount more tremendous than a computer room or classroom. And the spectacle of row upon row of books on shelves leaves nothing for the eye to desire, as full shelves for a reader are like lollies in a sweet shop, or stars in the night-sky. The pleasure you gain from consuming coloured candy, just as a book, is immeasurable. And if the sweet shop is too far away… why not read about it in the library?
Imagine the loss, the utter destruction to society if literature ceased to exist. If the very thing that united ancient cultures, refined society’s norms and expectations, and was crucial to the development of scientific and religious knowledge, no longer had a home of its own. Sure, the Internet provides unlimited access to more recent articles; however the truly magnificent aspects of a physical book will never be replicated. In this increasingly technological world, the absence of a library can have a detrimental influence on a child’s growth; not being able to explore words and feel pages, rather they have to watch as the screen animates the page turn for them. There’s no olfactory joviality in teaching a child to read on a screen, yet society’s progression is decidedly one-sided.
The enhancements to the library experience provided by technology, however, are immense. A computer is instrumental in cataloguing, processing and managing a library, for both the librarian and the reader. Believe me, issuing books in a school library without the computer is a dreaded task, one that is avoided at any cost. Not only is there the arduous task of writing down the barcode number, but also making sure it’s entered into the system after the computer recovers from its temporary disengagement. And for the reader: access to the whole catalogue in one place means finding a book is remarkably easy. The technological advances will never replace the sensory experience in a library; rather will enhance the adventure while in situ.
The practical appeal of libraries is universal — borrowing largely at no cost enhances the education of every single human being on the planet. The barriers to technology are much larger than the innate ability to walk in the door of a library, and readily become cultured and educated, at your will. An infinite selection of literature in front of you, as well as places to consume this, mean that libraries remain the most popular destination on the planet for literature.
It’s fair to say that libraries are necessary in the conglomeration of infrastructure bonding a society together. Their multi-faceted appeal, along with the allure of the sensory experience with books makes the library an attractive place for all. Even you.
Jack Goldingham Newsom is the Chief Objektioner and Founder of the Objektion Project. We help people, social enterprises, and volunteer organisations to carry out their mission more effectively by challenging current ways of thinking, and developing new frameworks to support their vision.
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