Some of my earliest memories are of the long hours I spent at my local library as a child. I remember my mother taking me to the library as a baby to help pick out picture books, and being absolutely fascinated by the sheer number of stories and worlds that were hidden inside the shelves. Each and every one of those skinny little spines was a story, neatly encased in between two pictures that served as the cover. Apparently, I went through so many picture books that my mother and I had to start driving to other libraries in neighboring towns in order to find new stories for me to read. As I got older, and was able to move on to selecting books on my own, I fell in love with the simple joy of browsing the shelves, pulling out book after book, scanning the back cover and judging the front, until I found one that was just right. Some days the search for the perfect book took just a couple tries; other days it took hours. And then there were those horrible, gut-wrenching days when I had found two perfect books, and had to choose one to take home, and one to cruelly abandon. When summer came around, and the Summer Reading Book Club started…things got serious. Free ice cream for reading 10 books?? Sign me up! I’ll read 100! 200!
But I was lucky. I had a wonderful, well-stocked local library, just minutes from my house, full of comfortable couches, well-lit desks, and helpful, friendly librarians. Many libraries today are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of the Kindle Store, the Nook Books, and the App Store. Will tomorrow’s children ever have a physical relationship to the stories they read? Instead of ‘turning a new leaf’, will they simply ‘swipe forward’ on their e-readers?
As a new author offering her work in exclusively digital format, it is a question that becomes very personal for me. I cherish those early memories of awe inspired by the stories that I found in the library. But this change is happening, and regardless of how nostalgic we are about those long afternoons spent at the local library, there are positive aspects to the digital reading revolution. Kids may be more willing to read, because their ‘books’ have become more engaging and hold their attention for longer periods of time. My mother wouldn’t have had to spend hours driving to the next town because her daughter had read all the picture books in the local library; there are an infinite number of books available online. Kids may read even more, because they have instant access to their stories through their devices. And libraries can still be wonderful places to escape to with your stories, providing a quiet, comfortable environment for kids to work, read, study, or meet friends. Too many people today have knee jerk reactions: library=good, technology=bad. Things are never that simple. If you take time to explore that infinite range of gray between the black and white, you just might just find that perfect medium.
READ PART 1