The End of Books

The ancient library at Angor Wat

The ancient library at Angor Wat

Pundits keep worrying that books will disappear, replaced by digital tracts, and that people are doing less and less reading. They’re communicating in quick tweets and something summary called a chat. Grammar and spelling are things of the past.

It follows that libraries, as well as book stores, and like the ancient libraries of the past, are on their way out.

I can’t speak to all of this, but I know for a fact that libraries have never been more important.  Yesterday, I stopped by one of Vermont’s libraries—this one in Lyndonville. I’ve never gone inside when there weren’t people coming and going—checking out books, talking about books, working on their own and the library’s computers. At least once a week, and usually more often, children sprawl out on the floor entranced by the reading of a story. On many evenings—meetings, book readings, community activities of one kind and another—are presented.

I spent one recent evening in a library at a beautifully performed presentation of the Spoon River Anthology. A week later I attended the twice a year talent show and library money-raiser in another village. The grocer sang some soulful gospel; a town poet recited his usual deeply sad poems; twenty, plus or minus, instrumentalists and singers performed some outlandish band tunes; singers, guitarists and comics played to a full house.  

Libraries in rural America, and I suspect in most of its cities and some of its suburbs, are wonderful buildings, architectural gems. It’s a joy to be in them. People who can’t afford to own or use a computer at home, claim a corner of their own and go to work. It’s a community center when there isn’t one, and even when there is. The librarian at Lyndonville told me that borrowing books is at an all-time high in their library.

The end of books? Hah! Not likely.

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