Two Views of Books

William Kent

(I have no idea when I actually wrote this.)

A book is something about so big that has a number on it and is supposed to be in a certain place on a certain shelf, according to its number. You have to have enough shelf space to hold all your books, plus extra space scattered around for expansion. You have to make sure that the shelf space is high enough and deep enough for most books, and you have to have special places for books that are too big. People can borrow books for a limited time, and you need a system to keep track of who’s got which books, and for how long, and to get the books back when they’re overdue. You need a catalog where people can look up titles, authors, and subjects, and find the book numbers. You need a way for people to find the numbers on the shelves, and to find the oversize books that are in special places. You have to know what books are available in other libraries, and get them for people, and send books to other libraries when they ask for them. You have to keep track of the condition of the books, and decide when to replace damaged or lost books. You have to keep current, and decide what new books to add to the library, within your money and space resources. You have to keep the catalogs current. Sometimes you have to reorganize the shelves, when you get too many books in one number group and too few in another. Sometimes you have to add more shelves, and sometimes you have to enlarge the library. It takes a good system and a lot of work to keep track of books.


Books are where ideas live. No, actually, books are where ideas lie dormant, to spring alive when somebody reads them. Books hold our heritage, our culture, our traditions. They hold our accumulated knowledge. They hold humor, imagination, beauty, adventure, fantasy. They shrink and stretch space and time, showing us galaxies, atoms, faraway places, long-ago happenings, what might be and what might have been. Books solve our problems, open our eyes, teach our children, stretch our minds, cheer us up, relieve our boredom. Some books are boring, but no book bores everybody. Books hold our universe, past, present, and future, and other universes, too.