“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ~Mark Twain
I could not have agreed more to it. I cannot imagine a world without public libraries, a world without beautiful books all piled up systematically, waiting to be sniffed, felt and read. My earliest memories of childhood are of a 5 year old me with my nose into an Enid Blyton book I found in my father’s bookshelf. I can still remember how I used to stand outside my school library as a kid, waiting for the lunch hour to strike so that I could get free access to all the books inside. The day I got my membership card for the local public library was perhaps one of the happiest moments of my life.
Without libraries, humankind is nothing; they are the proof of our history, our journey since time immemorial. This is perhaps what Ray Bradbury meant to convey when he said, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” And this truth was perhaps understood by that German soldier who was asked by Hitler to demolish and burn down the world library in Paris after the annexation of France. He is one of those unsung and unnamed heroes from history who despite strict orders just could not bring himself to burn down the memories and thoughts of humankind which were embedded for ages in those pages, those books stored inside the library.
Public libraries are a boon for young readers (and old ones alike) who do not have the financial ability to afford every book they want to read. All they need to do is to get a membership card made and get access to heaven for a lifetime. Also in many countries, book lovers have started converting dysfunctional phone booths into mini local libraries; people are free to take any book they like and leave another in its place from their personal library, so that the number of books never decreases and everybody gets a new book to read every single time.
Unfortunately, with the advances in modern technology, the appeal of public libraries has reduced considerably. Now with ebooks available which are cheaper, lighter and far more portable than their physical counterparts, lesser people are getting enrolled into these libraries and even lesser visiting them. With every other person owning a smartphone/tablet/ebook reader in which they can carry countless books, the time is perhaps not distant when these libraries might cease to exist.
Book lovers should shoulder responsibility and take an active part in keeping public libraries functional- by visiting them more often, borrowing books and reading them. It is true that with time, things morph and evolve but paperbacks are an indispensable part of human history. It is also important to remember that however advanced technology becomes, it can never replace the appeal of a paperback. The feel of the smooth pages, the sound of the rustle made during flipping pages, the wonderful smell of a freshly bound book, the beautiful golden color of the leaves of an old book are a few things that an e-book can never have.