Thursday, December 22, 2011

In Defense of Libraries

Libraries are awesome and here is why:


Reason 1: Free books.
Specifically, free books that don't require you to have a computer, Internet access, a Kindle, or a Nook. Libraries provide free books for the poorer or the less tech-savvy amongst us. To be frank, whenever I come across an ebook vs. book-book debate online, I have to roll my eyes. This is what well-to-do, middle-class people argue about in their free time. It's a bit elitist. My family didn't even have a computer until I was in middle school, and no Internet until high school. I still have friends without home computers or Internet connections. Where did we have to go for research or homework? You guessed it -- the library.

Reason 2: Educational Child Care
Whenever I visit the library, there are always families: mainly parents with toddlers. The kids read picture books or participate in a library-organized activity, while the parents read during a welcome break. There had better still be libraries around if I have kids. Not only do they provide structured activities, a chance to get out of the house, and a breather for parents, I sure don't want to have to buy a ton of picture books only to discard them a year later, when my kid gets too old.


Reason 3: A Library Isn't Just Books
This goes along with Reason 2. If it was all just a matter of the books, this debate would be irrelevant. A library is a community. Authors do readings and signings. Students get research help. Readers get recommendations. You don't have to buy anything to stay there and read or surf the Web (unlike at a cafe). You can advertise with flyers, pick up brochures, attend community events like sales, readings, movie and craft nights, etc. Actual human interaction.


Reason 4: Professional Help
Did you know that you have to have a Master's in Library Science to run a library? Most people probably don't, judging from the way they tend to underrate the role of the librarian.Their education covers everything from design to psychology to the Dewey Decimal System. It's their job to manage both books and people. A library will also provide services like career advice and research -- all you have to do is ask.


Reason 5: An Excuse to Get Out of the House
This last reason mainly applies to me. Long summers of unemployed boredom = Laura needs to leave the house before she starts climbing up the walls. However, Laura has no money. Wherever will she go? The library. Mostly I would bring my laptop for the Internet connection, but I also picked up and read a lot of books. It was a great way to avoid my parents, without them being able to object to it.

In short, libraries are an extremely valuable public resource, and those are my 5 main reasons why. Any thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Book Recommendation -- "The Year of Living Biblically"

'Tis the season to be jolly! Or, now that you've finished NaNoWriMo, it's the season to put down your ragged novel with a relieved sigh and pick up someone else's book. In the holiday spirit, I recommend The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, a nonfiction romp through one man's quest to follow all the rules in the Bible, to the letter, for an entire year.

As an agnostic who is, as he terms it, about as Jewish as Olive Garden is Italian, Jacobs has an interesting perspective on faith and the faithful. As a new father who wants to raise his children, he wonders if religion (and its rules) have anything to offer in the way of parenting wisdom. As a Jewish guy, he is interested in discovering his heritage -- and as such, most of the book focuses on the Hebrew Testament. As a husband, he is dismayed when the Biblical ban on lying makes his wife start asking him random questions. As a liberal, he is conflicted over different interpretations of scripture on issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Above all, this book is hilarious. It's an irreverent and surprisingly insightful crash course in the Bible. Jacobs records his journeys (physical and spiritual) in an informal, funny, thoughtful voice. The style makes it a light read, but it's long enough to keep you occupied for the month. It will also challenge and maybe change your ideas about religion, faith, and the world in general.

The Year of Living Biblically has been well-recieved by both secular and religious audiences. If you're not religious yourself, Jacobs is a perfect narrator. If you are, then you'll probably learn something new about your own faith or enjoy seeing things from Jacobs's respectful, but candid, perspective.

And if you pick it up and don't like it, there's always A Christmas Carol.