When was the last time you set aside your Kindle and stepped into the true pages of a book? Let me give you a tour of what you are missing by reading in the two dimensional electronic world of the tablet. It starts at the library.

The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new is to check out the local library. It is where I find my first welcoming “hello” and I can check out the community board to learn about the interests of the residents. Afterwards, I usually peruse the shelves and find the section about local authors, local history and local points of interest.

Libraries are extremely important in any community, because they reflect the heart and interests of the people passing through their front doors. When I visited my first library in mid-island, I found myself in the Parksville library lobby facing a beautifully restored totem pole that had originally been carved in 1967. Later, after my move to Comox this past June, I visited both the library in that community as well as the one in Courtenay. They both, in their own way, cater to the local population’s needs. Whether it has a greater focus on children books and storytelling activities or a designated meeting place for various community groups, it always reflects the current mix of generational users.

I also found the online system for ordering books from various library locations on the island to be very effective and user friendly, once a librarian had kindly explained to me all its attributes. This included the possibility of ordering multiple copies of one book for your own monthly book club circle. The comfortable lounge chairs with fireplace are a wonderful refuge on a cold wet day, especially with an excellent magazine article about the latest advances in quantum physics or a classic Dr. Suess’s book, Green Eggs and Ham. No matter your state of mind or emotions, there is something very peaceful about spending a couple of hours in the contemplative energy of a quiet space surrounded by thousands of pages, holding inspiration of all types and genres of human expression in the written form.

Local art also adds a touch of colour and ambiance, while plants and sculptures complete the decor between rows and rows of potential journeys of discovery. Don’t worry, you can still select and view films, videos and audio books. I am not against using technology, but I strongly believe that community does not exist within its electronic borders. It is a tool to message with, but be weary of the time when the medium becomes the message to paraphrase Marshall Mcluhan.

In an article by Todd Kappelman, he comments on what Mcluhan was reflecting on more than sixty years ago:

Every extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, have the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension. An example of an amputation would be the loss of archery skills with the development of gunpowder and firearms. The need to be accurate with the new technology of guns made the continued practice of archery obsolete. The extension of a technology like the automobile “amputates” the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations.

McLuhan believed that mankind has always been fascinated and obsessed with these extensions, but too frequently we choose to ignore or minimize the amputations. For example, we praise the advantages of high speed personal travel made available by the automobile, but do not really want to be reminded of the pollution it causes. Additionally, we do not want to be made to think about the time we spend alone in our cars isolated from other humans, or the fact that the resulting amputations from automobiles have made us more obese and generally less healthy. We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.

I am convinced that if we do not wake up to the very real possibility that physical libraries may become only a thin virtual representation, via eBooks, of a once very multi-sensory human gathering space, we will be missing an important part of what makes a place a community.

So please show your support for humanity by visiting your friendly local library and checking out a real book.

 

Catherine Hedrich

Editor in Chief, Tidechange.ca