Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shhhhhhh


This piece about the future of libraries in the UK caught my eye today. Akbar's article neatly encapsulates some of the tension in book circles. Should books maintain the centuries of tradition that have accumulated around them? Or do we allow books to sink or swim in the commercial environment (I was tempted to write 'pool')?

Personally, I wouldn't be adverse to a coffee shop in a library... after all, I notice people often use Borders in much the same way as a library. And I always found the silence in libraries just a bit unnerving. Which may be why I enjoy the New York Public Library scene of Ghostbusters so much. However, I can see the other side of the argument... I mean, imagine finding that someone had spilled their latte all over the copy of Pride and Prejudice that you just borrowed? (Mind, imagine not owning a copy of Pride and Prejudice?)

One of the things I have noticed is how picture book authors and illustrators are reproducing the look of the library book. It's a curious twist. Shaun Tan's Tales From Outer Suburbia and Emily Gravatt's Little Mouse's Book of Fears are two examples. Wonderful, amazing books, both. Both are sold to readers (and sometimes their parents). Yet both look like old-fashioned library books with stamps and lending cards.

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