In case you’ve had your nose in a book and missed the news, this week is National Library Week. The theme for the 2018 observation is “Libraries Lead.” Ho, hum. A better theme would be “Book “Em!”
Those who don’t frequent libraries because they are glued to the boob tube, will associate the phrase “Book ‘Em!” with the “Hawaii Five-0” TV series. In this police drama the bad guys inevitably were caught; after detailing their bad deeds, Steve McGarrett (played by actor Jack Lord) would turn and say, “Book ‘Em, Danno!” Off to the pokey went the criminal–er, alleged criminal. (Since I have grown up to be an attorney, I realize that the arrestee is presumed innocent until proven guilty.) Bet the crook would rather have gone to a library than to jail.
Since TV was not a part of my daily routine as a child, I read regularly and voraciously. And from whence did these books come? From our local library, of course. To me, the local library was akin to a travel agent for those seeking to take a vacation. The books on the shelves at the library offered me the opportunity to travel back in time, travel forward in time, travel into an imagined world and travel across the globe. It was up to me to decide where I wanted to go by selecting the book that caught my fancy.
In the summers my mom took us to the local library at least once a week. I would pick out a stack of books to check out to keep me occupied during the long lazy days of summer vacation stretching before me. What a momentous event it was when I became old enough to have my own library card. I was as excited as a 16 year old would be getting a driver’s license. The books available to me at the library could take me places–some totally inaccessible by car. I didn’t even have to have gas money to go to far off places in my mind; I simply needed to open a book.
National Library Week was first observed in 1958, but libraries have been around since the earliest days. Well, maybe there wasn’t a library in the Garden of Eden, but I bet Adam would have appreciated access to Gardening For Dummies.. Libraries did exist in the ancient world though. I saw the ruins of one while on a tour of Ephesus in Turkey. Given its size, it appears that the Ephesus library was a pretty popular place to hang out in its day. But its patrons may have had to “Scroll ’em” instead of “Book ’em.”
Americans can thank good old Ben Franklin for the first library in the United States. It was established in 1731 in Philadelphia. I am not sure about the healthy and wealthy part, but this Founding Father may have been wise from taking advantage of the knowledge available in the books shelved in the library of the City of Brotherly Love.
Americans think we are #1. And we are, at least when it comes to having the world’s largest library. The Library of Congress holds over 155 million items. How big is this library? It is so big that it is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill.
Unfortunately, today people are more likely to want to go to Starbucks than to their local library. That’s a shame, especially since, according to Chiff.com, there are actually more public libraries than Starbucks in the United States. Statista.com states that there were 8,222 company-owned Starbucks in the U.S. as of January 2017. That means that there are not only lots of barristas out there, but that there are even more books. Sure, Starbucks will sell you some caffeine to stimulate your body, but your local library will give you the chance to stimulate your mind for free.
Today’s library isn’t Ben Franklin’s or even your parents’ library. Libraries are no longer simply repositories for books. They provide access to computers for patrons’ use, offer movies and audio recordings (music and books) for checkout, and host special programs for citizens of all ages. A library in my local area has given me the chance to hear a lecture by a renowned scientist, witness a cooking demonstration, and experience the joy of adult coloring. Kids are offered story time, book clubs, etc. As an involved Mimi, I even went to a sing along time for toddlers with my grandson at his local library in another state. (Don’t worry.; there was a special room for the activity so no librarian or patron had to say “Shhh!)
Where would we be without libraries? I shudder to think. Why, I’d never be able to afford to buy all the books I want to read, And if you want peace and quiet, the library is the place for you. You won’t hear folks yakking on cell phones because the focus is on reading, not talking, there.
The library holds a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of trips to the library as a child and fond memories of taking my own children to the library when they were young. Let’s be sure to patronize our local libraries so that their existence does not become simply a memory. While it is all well and good to celebrate libraries one week a year, make it a point to take advantage of what libraries have to offer on a regular basis. Trips to the library–book ’em!
One thought on “Book ‘Em!”
I totally agree; I’ve always loved libraries!! When I moved overseas and people asked me what I missed about America, my answer was immediately, libraries and bookstores. But, the great thing now is, you can go online and borrow ebooks from your library, anywhere in the world! What a blessing!
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