I’m fascinated by ancient history—the archaic and classical Mediterranean, ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. Mostly, though, I love studying paleoanthropology and archaeology—the Paleo- and Neolithic periods, the evolution of human kind and our spread across the face of the planet.
Recent history doesn’t particularly interest me. I understand the proximal importance of the Modern Era, the World Wars, the Cold War, etc., to the present day but it doesn’t capture my imagination. I look at the world during that time and I see something very much like the world I was born into. It’s too familiar to be fascinating.
I’m fascinated by ancient and prehistory because these eras are so vastly different from the world I live in. In a review I wrote of Madeline Miller’s novel, The Song of Achilles, I refer to the “alien-ness of Bronze Age Greece”. I read articles like this one about Kennewick Man and it’s shocking to realize just how little prehistoric life resembles my own. How vastly different it was than anything I’ve ever known.
I know that many librarians (myself included) and library-lovers have been saying this ad nauseam. We’ve been saying this long before Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service unleashed the current flood of op-ed pieces. But this is important and it needs to be said:
Libraries are, have always been, and will always be much more than just collections of books.
I’ve been following the development and launch of the BiblioTech Digital Library from the beginning. I have my own issues with it but there’s one thing in particular that bothers me:
Why do we keep calling it a “bookless” library?
This bothers me all the more because, as best I can tell, the people who created the BiblioTech library are the ones who first decided to call it that.
Let me make this as clear as I can:
Ebooks are books.
They’re legit. They’re not “less than” or ersatz or denigrated versions of books. Ebook collections at libraries aren’t “bookless” just because they’re digital.
It does libraries a disservice to devalue ebooks this way. Our patrons want ebooks and we devote significant time and effort to try and supply them. When we talk about ebooks as though they’re intrinsically second-class items, it demeans the wants & needs of our patrons, and it demeans our efforts & our work on this front.
If ebooks aren’t real books, then how do we justify the expense of maintaining e-collections?
We must get away from calling this thing a “bookless” library.