Friday, June 01, 2007

Hooray for books

I keep meaning to talk up GoodReads.com, which you may have noticed on the right-hand side of this page. It's a place where you list the books you're reading, the ones you plan to read, the ones you've loved in the past, etc. Of course being a web thing, there are ample opportunities for discussion and social networking, but I'm not bothering so much with that. It's like this blog -- I'm doing it more for record-keeping, to look back on in amazement and probably embarrassment in future years, rather than expecting a lot of people to read or comment on it now. It does have one practical use, which is that if I'm ever in a library and my mind goes blank, I can log on and figure out what books I've been meaning to read. For years I carried around a paper list of books and movies I'd heard of and intended to get, so I didn't have to wander aimlessly among New Releases when I found myself in a bookstore or video store. I don't need to do this any more, and actually I don't even really need GoodReads, thanks to Netflix and the Minuteman Library Network -- I order everything on line in advance. Hiking miles of aisles in a library in search of a particular book, only to arrive at its spot and find it checked out, is so 20th century. And since you can get zillions of books just by typing the title at your desk, waiting a few days and then stopping by your local library's circulation desk, it's even more tragic that budget cuts have severed some local libraries from the interlibrary loan network that makes all this this possible. Of course we need firefighters and policemen and roads and schools, and I don't know the details of the budgets in the affected towns. But to be unwilling as a town to spend the money just to stay within the interlibrary network and keep the local building open a few hours a week is unconscionable. The public library is the single greatest benefit of communal living that the species has invented. I mean, you can go to a warm and quiet place and read or borrow books to learn just about anything in the world, and it's free for anyone to use. And that's even before public Internet access came along. Now you can have access to even more info instantly, you can communicate with anyone in real time, and you can browse porn sites to your heart's content or at least until the librarian sneaks up behind you and clears her throat menacingly.

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