I love technology. I think I've seen just about every James Bond movie made, just to see what clever gadgets Q would come up with. I still laugh out loud every time I remember Maxwell Smart talking into his shoe. Mission Impossible, Inspector Gadget, Spy Kids... it's all good.
Surely you have heard by now that Apple has released it's latest and greatest, the iPad. It looks amazing, thin and sleek. It does all kinds of neat stuff. I want to play with one, for sure. I want to stream video and play tunes. I want to make a phone call so I can laugh at how silly I must look holding it up to the side of my face.
I don't, however, want to read a book on it. Books don't belong on electronic screens. Books happen to be just fine the way they are.
When I was a little girl, my mother told me that when she was a little girl paper was scarce after the war. She taught me that the written word, and the bindings and pages that cradle those words, were precious. She taught me to respect books, to cherish them. We weren't to throw them or walk on them or write in them or damage the pages. My daughters will tell you that I learned that lesson very well, as have they.
Books hold a special place in my heart and in my life. My dearest friends will tell you that one of my greatest shames is the rate at which I read. I have worked hard at increasing my reading speed, to no avail. But that has not deterred me from embracing books. Books remind me that I am imperfect.
Books do much more than that, of course. They instruct, they encourage, they elicit, they challenge... they remember. Books can be opened, baring the souls hidden within. They can be closed, allowing time for introspection. Books are vulnerable to the elements and to human carelessness, and yet they endure somehow, carrying forth our history, our stories. We need those stories, and we need the vessels in which they are carried.
And books need us. Books need people to collect and care for them. Books need places to live, too. Libraries, whether small or grand, are the dwelling places of the written word. It is in libraries that books commune with their own in safety and comfort, openly awaiting new friends with whom to share their stories.
Book stores serve a similar purpose, but libraries possess qualities often overlooked. Libraries are more than the sum of their shelves. The orderliness of the rows, the logic of the filing system, the intimacy of the space between the shelves, the enveloping quiet... these are the things that draw me to libraries. And the smell. Libraries have a fragrance all their own.
My youngest daughter tells me that she loves to discover the same books at the public library that she sees on the shelves of her school library. She says that tells her that the books she likes are popular with other kids. She feels connected, bonded to other humans through books and the accessibility of their kin.
Go ahead and tap your iPad screen. Go ahead and scroll down the edge and read the tiny letters typed on the tiny flashing screen. Give me something I can open and feel and smell. Give me books.