Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s kind of like ZipCar for books

Remember libraries? They’re like book stores, only you don’t pay for the books, and no one minds if you just sit around and read without taking anything home. (Remember book stores? They're like, but with other people.)
Libraries are regaining their relevance, after an inevitable ebb. With so many regional and local economies suffering, free opportunities for recreation and no-cost access to information to hone skills and find jobs are important. While it may not be immediately obivous, they’re a great place to interact with real, live people. (Take that, Internet!) Libraries also offer the benefits of group ownership: I can read the book, my neighbor can read the book, my wife can read the book, and some guy named Doug can read the book- but as if by magic, it’s still just one book. It’s only manufactured once, but it’s used many times by many different people. What a creative, thrifty, and environmentally-friendly idea. It seems like something Benjamin Franklin would have dreamed up.
My local library happens to be adjacent to a few local stores, several restaurants, and (my personal favorite) an ice cream shop, all of which surround a courtyard with benches, tables, grassy areas, a fountain, and a little pavilion for performances. There’s even a movie theater and a coffee shop nearby. People meet, interact, support local businesses, read, and borrow books, all in a central place that’s about a five-minute walk from the local Metro station. It’s a wonderful and natural synthesis of public and private space, one I’d love to see replicated more.
Whether or not your local branch is as hip as mine, a library is a great way to build community, learn, and save money with minimal impact on the environment. Be the solution


Pat Jenkins said...

minimal impact on the enviroment? how many trees had to be slaughtered for all these books you are encouraging us to read?... in all seriuosness, through our library's expansion it has become our #1 entertainment source.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I'd no doubt that a clever lad like you was a library patron.
On the subject of books and trees, there's an interesting book called Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, written by an architect and a chemist, that deals with alternative means of manufacture. A few chapters into the book, the authors call the reader's attention to the fact that the book is produced without any paper: it's made from a fully recyclable polymer that can be processed into a new book without degrading the quality of the material (unlike "tree-paper", which degrades each time it's recycled).