Libraries are doing something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. They are throwing out books. They are putting them on carts in front of the library and you can take as many as you want for free. If no one takes them, the library simply throws them out. Books are no longer needed in a modern library. They are being replaced by computers. No need to have stacks and stacks of books when they can be replaced by a few rows of computers that can access all the literature in the world instantly.
I know it will make me sound very old and out of touch to say, but I find it almost sacrilegious to throw out a book .
The Library in my home town of Basking Ridge New Jersey has been giving away books for months now, and I have been gathering them up as if they are gems thrown in the garbage.
It is incredible what was being thrown out. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, A Dictionary of Classical Mythology, a book with beautiful photographs of all the buildings ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There were also mystery novels, books of poetry and erotic thrillers. All of these items are now proudly on my den shelves at home. My wife thinks I am crazy, but I can not pass up an abandoned book any more than she can pass up an abandoned bunny.
But some of the books have sadder stories to tell than others. Many of the books have inscriptions in them. Some of the inscriptions show that the book was donated to the library in memory of a loved one. How could a library throw that out?
Other books have things inside them that people left as bookmarks and then forgot to take out when they returned the book to the library. One was a letter in which a woman had written down all the phone numbers for support groups for Military Moms. Her son was fighting in Iraq and she was worried sick about him.
She must have tried reading a book to take her mind off her worries. I don’t think it worked. The fact that the paper was still there as a bookmark meant that she had never finished the book. I pray that her son made it home safely.
I love physical books and old time libraries and dens filled with them. Throwing them out seems like when all the old Vinyl records were tossed. It was only after they were gone that people began to realize just how much them missed them.
When the last book from the last library is gone and there is nothing left but rows of computers; the libraries will be more efficient and cost effective.
But something will be gone forever.