The magnetic effect of a library

When John Keats wrote his Ode on a Grecian Urn, he was dedicating his poem to something that had been valued, revered, used and cherished.

“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, Thou foster –child of silence and slow time,” were his words. Do they reverberate with us book lovers?  Reading, for many of us, is an activity of leisure, quietness and reflection.

It is our solace in times of stress and our retreat whenever we feel the need for it. There is a sense too that for the author, the book is a child born after a long period of gestation.

We feel that all this is ours to have and to hold, once we enter a library. Is this true for young people nowadays? Let us take a closer look.

What does a library still have that is special? Well, real human contact, for one. Even though you may be asked to shush up, you still see other beings walking or sitting around and there is a great feeling of comfort in that shared purpose. The presence of a helpful live librarian gives a reassuring sense too.  Human contact also includes smells! The books, I mean. Each book has a distinctive scent which is enticing and what better place than a library to enjoy this?

Tactile contact

The touch-feel factor too is important. Somehow there is a joy in making tactile contact with what you are reading. Very young children really relate to books they can touch and stroke. Ever noticed how fascinated a young child is to actually touch and rub an animal’s fur?

The leisure of researching in the library is without compare. To stare out of the window for a delicious half-hour with books lying around you and not count the cost, to ask the librarian to reserve a book for you and anticipate its arrival, to serendipitously discover a book you actually longed for and then go to the dictionary to look up serendipity – once you have experienced this bliss, you will haunt the library for eternity.

Sleeping! That is the ultimate comfort in a library. Many is the time I have spent a whole day in the library knowing that I can lay my head down on a comfortable book and take a nap whenever my brain cells need recharging. No one looks askance at that. Even now when I wish to think things through for a piece of writing, I head like a homing pigeon to the nearest library. Amidst the shelves and mild hum of the users, I get my best ideas!

Easy navigation

I have gone searching on Google many a time and ended with my head whirling and buzzing with too much information, much of which is totally irrelevant to what I wanted in the first place! I am not an anti-net person at all.

I go online for many things but I still appreciate the library as a real space where I might find my needs. Besides, the librarian can help me navigate through the information so that I end up with what I want. The other thing is that the library knows its limitations.

If the book or information I want is not there, I will be told. But not so the net. It can keep me dangling endlessly with the promise of delights to come and I am literally hooked. So I end up a master of bits of information with not much depth.

I know I can zoom in on information on the net but have you tried to retrieve the same bit even an hour later? More information has come in and things have got realigned and readjusted and you start all over again. It reminds me a bit of the situation in which you know where things are in your room and then a zealous soul has a go at clearing up and ...nothing can be found by you.

Lead us not into temptation, says the holy book. but the internet is not listening. It lays before us the best of writing, answers, essays.

If only we could write like that. But, hey, you may say, why not? Cut and paste, and off you go –but, alas under a cloud of  disgrace. I ask you, was it worth it?
 I am all for technology and the net and its myriad ways of finding information, but give me the library, a comfortable seat there and the promise of a variety of resources. Then, ah then, time can be mine, and my best graces spend it at my will!                                                   

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