Today was a “book” day.
I’ve been choosing and packing books for our vendor exhibit space at the Connecticut Society of Genealogists annual fall event this coming Saturday – this year in North Haven, Connecticut – and also ordering books for the event the week following in Bergen County, New Jersey.
(I’m doing one talk at the Connecticut event, should you be interested.)
So, to continue with the “book day” theme, let me point out that the brand-new New England Historic Genealogical Society book catalog was released today. We stock a number of the NEHGS titles, so it was good to find some new things in print.
In print. In paper. As in real paper-and-glue books.
You know, the kind of things that don’t need a special “reader”, will work when the power goes out and can be loaned out or given to friends. Real books. You may have heard of them.
Now, before you get on my case, call me a Luddite, tell me to get with the program and suggest it’s only a matter of time till everything of value is (a.) digitized and (b.) online for free, please permit me this simple indulgence to point out that you’re probably grossly mistaken.
No question, more and more stuff is being digitized. Similarly, more stuff is going online. That’s all to the good. But not everything. Not even close.
Moreover, there’s a dirty little secret that nobody talks about. Real glue and paper books are being destroyed. Pulped. Dumped. Sold for waste paper. Burned. Ground up. Shredded. Turned into blown-in insulation for the thousands of overpriced McMansions that now dot the landscape in ex-urban America. The very same McMansions that offer convincing proof that there are Schools of Architecture and licensing boards that should be sued for malpractice, at least as far as architectural aesthetics and design are concerned.
But I digress. The issue at hand is books. As I said, today was a book day.
First, let me say that I LOVE Google Books and all the other digitization programs. Nonetheless, when I swivel my desk chair around to look at the stuff on my own shelves – my personal reference collection of real honest-to-Murgatroyd books – most of them are not digitized. There are both copyright issues and “popularity” issues that keep that from happening.
Let’s face it: a book titled “The Record : a History of the Graduates' Association of the State Normal School, Worcester, Mass. ; Revised and Brought Down to 1904” is not a title that makes the heart beat quicker.
In fact, our friends at WorldCat locate a single copy at the Worcester Public Library.
That’s it. One copy. In one library.
There may be others, but WorldCat doesn’t know about them.
Were you to check the out-of-print booksites for that title, you’d find that currently there were exactly NONE for sale.
So, my personal copy on the shelves behind my desk is – to use the technical term – “hard to come by.” Of course, most people will never want or need a copy, so it’s a “low-priority” item for reprint or for digitization.
Besides, there’s a copy at the Worcester Public Library. You can always go there to look at it.
Oh, wait… there’s that “dirty little secret” thing I talked about.
That’s all about space and storage being expensive and libraries being “patron demand-driven”.
Did you know that libraries actually got rid of (i.e., destroyed) books? Given much thought lately to how/why they did that and how/by whom that was decided?
I spent a large number of years as a trustee of an urban public library and also as a board officer of a large library system. The concept of “library of last resort” – the library that kept one single reference copy of things that needed keeping – was a much talked about and little acted upon issue, but that was before space was an issue and before digitization got a foothold in the library/book world.
Now it’s a major issue, but still a little talked-about or acted-upon one.
So, if you think that “books in libraries” are safe from extinction and destruction, you might just as well believe in gardens of prancing unicorns and free pie for everybody. Ain’t gonna happen.
Here’s an article by Linda Holmes on the NPR Blog website that underscores what’s really going on in the book/library world with regard to books going “bye-bye.” It’s called “Hard Choices: Do Libraries Really Destroy Books?”
Read it. Be surprised. Weep.
Then go buy a real book and save it for future generations.
Because what you think is probably happening ...probably isn't.