Will the library ever disappear, fade quietly into extinction like the dodo bird or the woolly mammoth? Will children fifty years from now know what a library is? Why it was here for communities to gather and share a common love? Will they know the musty aroma of an old, weighted tome? The feel of brittle paper flaking at the corner edge?
I admit it’s more than a dozen moons since I visited a library, but on some days I’m compelled to go, driven by the fear that those doors will soon close because of negligent people like me. People who get too busy to borrow a book, much less read it. It’s possible I might get more reading done if I was willing to use a Kindle, but I have no interest in staring at another screen. I stare into a computer’s glare for nine hours a day, five days a week. I don’t equate “screens” with leisure. I view them as work. I want the firm binding in my palm and the tactile experience of touching cool, crisp paper as I turn it with my forefinger when I read a book. I want to anticipate what I’ll find in the next page when I flip it over. In a tangible book, I can lose myself within the characters’ world. I can’t lose myself in an electronic device. There is something cold and impersonal about it. I don’t want to reside among ones and zeros and metal drives. I want to rest my hand in a book’s open arms. I want to stroll through open aisles to browse titles, running my fingers over cracked leather and glossy paperback bindings. Feeling texture, smelling hundreds of ideas collected under one roof. Being among like-minded people who come to the library to find their next adventure.
I hope these simple pleasures never disappear, but as technologies hypnotize the youngest generation at infancy, I wonder if they’ll eventually view libraries as wasted space. Why should books dwell on shelves when they can be stored in clouds. Because clouds can’t be touched by human hands, because they dissipate and separate from themselves. Clouds separate us from our communities on the ground, wedging us farther from each other. But a physical book can be touched by many lives, connecting us as one.