I believe in the power of the book. Growing up, I was always a reader. I could curl up anywhere with a good book. My tastes may have changed since childhood, but my love for the written word has not.
When my best friend and her husband decided to have a baby, I had to think for a long time about what I wanted to buy her for her baby shower. She means the world to me, and I wanted her gift to be special. She’s a Russian immigrant and her husband is American. Since I knew that they were going to raise their son bilingual, the only solution to my problem was to find Russian language baby books. As I don’t speak a word of Russian, I knew that it would be difficult. But, as luck would have it, I was a part of the tech services department at the University of Pittsburgh, and I was friends with the Slavic Language cataloguers.
We struck a deal: it just so happened that my husband and I were traveling to Europe that fall. If we went to a bar named The Bulldog (they love bulldogs) in Amsterdam and bought them souvenirs, they would help me find and buy baby books in Russian.
We got an alphabet book, as well as fairy tales in Russian, stories that you could understand just by looking at the pictures. When my friends’ mother found out what I was doing, she too bought me several books herself too add. The illustrations were amazing, and the Cyrillic letters blazing so beautifully across the page made me sad that I couldn’t read them myself.
They were a huge hit- my best friend loved them, her husband was flattered, and her mother was thankful that I thought of something so unique for her grandson.
In the library world, the belief is that the paper book will disappear. I am not ashamed that I have a “sentimental” attachment to the book. While digitization will certainly happen to the bound periodical, I can not see it happening to the novel, or to children’s books. Can you imagine holding a baby up to a screen to read them Doctor Seuss? This is probably a very bad statement to make in a technological world, but it is what I believe.
That same friend once told me that she can’t imagine throwing her treasured books away- and books are treasures. We identify with certain books; we love them because they speak to us. We carry dog-eared copies of our favorite novels with us on trains, planes, and long car trips. In my life, and on my book shelf, my tattered books are a badge of honor- they mark what I’ve read, they advertise my intellectual (and sometimes juvenile) taste in literature.
As long as the book is treated like a treasure, a badge of honor, or even a conversation starter, the printed book will stay. This is what I believe.
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