My grandparents used to have a huge home library in their old house. My parents had a smaller one, most of the books were either borrowed from their parents’ libraries or were purchased for their studies in the university. I have about 10 books at home, half of them may be considered “mine”, the other half technically belong to my wife (meaning I’ve never used them and I have no particular interest in doing so), and I guess I haven’t read more than 30 pages of at least one of “my” books.
For the centuries the home libraries were attributed with erudition, intelligence and even nobility of their owners, because if your family owned a vast amount of books, there was a chance that you’d spent some part of your life reading them and would eventually become smarter than your average common folks. Plus, if you were not struggling for your life and survival, you didn’t have that much choice of entertainment and timewasting, so reading was a reasonable choice to spend your time. And don’t forget that there was much less content to read than you have nowadays, there were no amateur bloggers like me who would throw their illogical and unprofessional thoughts about everything into the huge world-wide pile of garbage.
Things started to change dramatically in the second half of the 20th century with its rise in the life quality, the wide of adoption of television, mass media and internet, which brought us to the 21st century with cheap and easy access to the information, and the widespread of affordable e-readers and always-connected personal mobile devices. There is now much more media content in the world than you would be able to consume in your entire lifespan.
However, the human habits are not so quick to change, so we still have home libraries. You may disagree, but I think there is no point in them nowadays. Due to the enormous amount of content it’s likely that you won’t read most of the books more than once and they will keep standing on a shelf collecting dust for many years.
Public libraries were a good step in reducing the clutter at home – you’d borrow the book, finish it, and then let someone else read it. However, you can buy or download books for free so easy these days that there is no need to go the public libraries at all. And it’s not only about fiction, the web gives you access to the professional literature and research papers as well.
I personally don’t buy the point of the paper books being more superior to their electronic counterparts due to “that magic real paper feel”. Ebooks are much more convenient and versatile to use – you don’t have to carry around the additional weight, you can read them from any device with automatic progress synchronization, easy bookmarks and notes, language translations, etc. However, there are some books with awesome design and layout, which are a pure joy to look at, e.g. Type Matters by Jim Williams but I don’t think most of your books are the same.
For me, the public and home libraries in the way our ancestors knew them are dead. I enjoy our digital future even if I don’t look cool in the eyes of some elitists praising their smelling dust collectors.
The featured image is a property of James Kirkus-Lamont