Are You a Member of the Cult of the Paper?

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“There wasn’t a place I could think of that was more magical than a building bursting with books and stories and words…” ― Lindsay Eland, A Summer of Sundays

libraryNever Changing – Ever Changing

I value books; I trust books.  They do not one day tell you they never said that; they do not change direction on you halfway through the second reading; they do not alter their appearance to deceive you, unlike people. Oh, certainly, there are some people I trust, however, not, in the same way that I know that the book will remain faithfully true to itself each time.

It will not educate me one day and then withhold its knowledge another.  It lies patiently within reach, ready for me to explore the richness of its information or to lighten my mood.  It is always a loyal friend.

Books allow me the luxury of stopping mid-sentence and looking up a word I may not understand, unlike a person who might chastise me for my lack of knowledge.

I like libraries.  Yes, I know that I can read electronically, and do; however, the neatness, order and wonder of libraries still excites me. I appreciate that libraries group books by categories. I can wander aimlessly down each row.  I am not embarrassed as I slowly walk down each aisle – bent at the waist, scanning titles, and suddenly, without warning, I’ll see two or three words that capture my attention.

I am always amazed that authors can give such new meaning to some common words when combined on the spine of a book.  Sometimes it’s the cover art.  A moment, a place in time, another world, or an emotional image that resonates within and I know that I have stumbled upon something that will entertain, educate and enthrall me.

Authors create exciting and exotic worlds and invite me to visit.  Some authors validate my experiences; others force me to reconsider my original perspective.  Many write the how-to that I rely on to fix things, and the library just lets me have these books without paying, downloading or printing. What a gracious idea.

So, how did this concept of lending reading material begin?

Let’s Hear it for Franklin

Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731, establishing the idea of loaning a book without charge provided people returned the books in good shape. Pooling resources with his friends and associates who supported mutual improvement, the members contributed books and paid a yearly subscription fee; in essence, the same system used today.

Each year for the past ten years, I have selected a subject or category of books to read that year, so I reference the years by the genre.  Sorting years by something other than the number grew out of my sister and I referencing years by our mother’s frantic hobbies. She suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Bi-Polar Disorder; all misdiagnosed until her mid-seventies.

Yet, we survived the Year of the Egg, when my mother cut pictures from cards with tiny manicure scissors and painstakingly inserted and glued the newly composed still life within the eggshell. Alternatively, she used a miniature electric file to shave off areas of an ostrich egg to create raised sculptured designs.

She would drill a tiny hole in the top and bottom of the egg to drain the fluids. If she was careful, and the egg didn’t crack, she would use a child’s size syringe and clean out the shell with bleach and water. Inserting a toothpick, she would pierce the egg carton and then mount the shell to dry.

Since my mother was not one to waste food, we had a lot of quiches, scrambled eggs and frittata dishes from the eggs.  We shared space on the kitchen table with egg shells in various stages of design. Ever resourceful, the egg cartons also served well as a book rest so I could eat and read at the same time.

eggsI Am My Mother’s Child without an Egg

I think if I am honest, I have inherited this same gene, without the artistic talent. I have access to four libraries, and each librarian knows me the “List Lady”. Certainly, there are nicknames that are more attractive; however, this one is accurate. I do not run in, grab a book and electronically check out. I have my list of new authors to explore within the year’s genre; reading about the subject, person, or concept that intrigues me for that year.

I have not yet scratched the surface of the books in my small southern town, so I have difficulty trying to imagine just how many books, how many words and how much entertainment there is on the 327 miles of bookshelves within the Library of Congress.

Each author is writing about the same subject, and just as all started like the egg, each author embellishes, decorates, modifies, and flavors their book with their personality and choice of words.

I also use several sites to help me find new or obscure authors writing about what I want to read, and when I find a new author, I add them to my list. Books Like, What Should I Read Next and Goodreads all provide me with different levels of search for this task. My favorite is Thriftbooks for selection, price, shipping and speedy delivery.

Support Your Local Library 

support people

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book; you may find encouragement and comfort.  A library is a good place to do when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book; you may have your question answered.  Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” E.B.White

We are fortunate to have libraries.  Learn how you can financially support yours.  Donate those books that you can part with so someone else will benefit from the information.  Or even volunteer to read to children so parents have some uninterrupted time to find just that perfect book that speaks to their soul or helps them learn how to decorate an egg.

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