Her fingertips gently caressed each book as she walked in between each row, glancing at the titles at a random while taking in the aroma of coffee from a nearby coffee booth. To her it felt like each book was beckoning her fingers so that they lay gently on her palm as she ravished each word on every page. She’d stop on occasion if a title would catch her eye. She’d screw her eyebrows and frown in concentration and think to herself ‘have I read this or would I like to read?’ If the right signals were sent to her brain, she’d slide the book out and gently open it. The words would rush out as if in a race to reach her eyes first. They’d dance and jump up in her view and she’d catch them all at once and process them in her head. If interested, she’d hold on to it. If not, she’d keep it back oblivious to the ‘heart wrenching’ cry the book would give out. The other books would smirk and say ‘Ha! It’s not your day today either’. She’d continue this little game of ‘give and take’ with the books till she finally finds ‘the one’.
Finally she reaches out and slides a book off the top shelf. She smiles at it, takes a satisfying deep breath and whispers to herself ‘the one’. The book in turn squeals in delight and boos all the other books left there waiting for someone else to come and do the same. Clutching the book to her heart she heads to the checkout counter and checks it in. Once done, she leaves to go home. She couldn’t wait to devour the book and let the words stimulate her mental palate.
The last time I walked into a library was in 2005. But soon work and other ‘life duties’ took over and even before I knew it, libraries slid onto the ‘extinct’ road.
Walk-In libraries are the ones that people actually walk into, pick up a book, glance through it, read the blurb or a few pages even and if they don’t like it they keep it back. But if they do, into the library cart it went and the scene continued till they’ve had their fill of books to last them a few days or weeks. These kinds of libraries are almost extinct. Now you have the more fancy ones called ‘online libraries’ where you log-in (which I am sorry to say is in no way a comparison to walking into a library) and choose the books you want. You cannot randomly glance through a book; you can’t even pick up that book for you to decide whether you’d want to read that book or not. No, that depends purely on the blurbs which are typed off onto the site. You do not have the luxury of saying to yourself ‘hmmm, this book sounds interesting, I wonder what it is about’ and then go on to actually read a few pages of it before making a decision.
Online libraries have their advantages and disadvantages, I give you that. They definitely do cut down on the travel time, they give you the option of pick-up and delivery which means time is not much of a constraint. You can just let them know when you’d like your books to be picked up and delivered and it’s done! Most guarantee to do so the very next day. Also and I feel this is a major advantage especially for the people who work full-time, they really don’t need to squeeze in a ‘return books’ on their To-do list. One click and you’re set.
On the other hand the disadvantages also are aplenty. What if the site conks off, what if your computer conks off, what if you don’t have a computer, what if you don’t have an internet connection, what if your internet connection is wonky, etc.
What I truly miss is the ‘picking up a book, finding a quiet corner and sitting down and randomly glancing through the pages’ part. Plus just the sheer thrill of being in a library has gone missing. The smell of fresh new unopened pages of a book or picking up a book that has been read by countless people countless number of times; all that is gone from an online version of a library.
I don’t know how many people would actually pick up random books from an online library. I mean how many of us would scroll through various pages before we actually choose one or say ‘hey this might sound interesting’. We might scroll through a couple of pages but twenty of them, I highly doubt it. With the pace the world is going and time literally slipping through our fingers; online libraries do come as a blessing for many people out there.
I remember when in school, we had a ‘library period’ for reading. We’d pick up a book from our school library and mark it in our calendars to take home. Most of the books were of course for kids and youngsters but nevertheless it was a thrill reading the likes of Nancy Drew and Famous Five and Secret Seven etc. it was one of my favourite times in school. Now it’s more about X-boxes and Play Stations and video games et al for kids these days.
Knowing that someday books may turn out to be ‘extinct’ too really is very creepy to me. Reading a soft copy of a book is not the same as reading a hard copy. Holding a book in your hand and flipping each page unsure of the surprises it’s going to spring on you next is something that excites me far more than reading something on word or a pdf. But I guess that’s just me. Or is it?
What about you, dear readers? Do you miss walking into a library or do you prefer the online option?