14 November, 2011

On Books and the Seattle Public Library

I've been thinking a lot about books lately.  Books are my comfort food when I'm having a bad day.  In a different period of my life when I had lots of bad days I would often go to the bookstore and for hours I would leaf through books in just about every section deciding which one I should take home with me.  These days I spend a lot less time at the bookstore and most of the volumes I add to my library come from thrift stores where you can pick up a number of fine books for only $1.  This propensity to buy books and the addition of Aaron's collection has left me with many that I own and have yet to read.  When moving across the country Aaron and I shipped our library of 11 boxes averaging 40lbs a piece through media mail.  Yesterday, after 6 months in storage, we finally opened the boxes and gave our books a home.  Now they're in every room of our little house, in shelves under the bed, behind dvds in the living room,  stacked 2 and 3 deep on a built in shelf and our collection of cookbooks reside in the kitchen of course.  It's nice to have them available again even if they're a little unorganized  I have just begun to undertake the task of cataloging them all with the help of the Good Reads smart phone app that allows you to scan bar codes and automatically add them to your Good Reads bookshelves.  I think it will be nice to have a digital reference to our collection.

What started all these thoughts on books was a trip to the main branch of the Seattle Public Library.  It is  a sight to see and is most certainly worth a visit.  The building was designed by engineers and architects with the idea that form should follow function.  You can follow this link to see an interesting Ted Talk about its design and construction and take a quick virtual tour of the building.  I've been told that Seattle's library system is very good and I am looking forward to testing it out especially since we have 2 branches within walking distance.

One of the coolest aspects of the library is that the books are arrangedin linear numeric order by use of a spiral with a slightly sloping floor.  Kind of like a parking garage for books.  This form of organization makes it very easy  to navigate as it is very intuitive.  And if you don't want to walk through the entire spiral there are stairs that serve as shortcuts to different levels.

I'll conclude this tangent on books with a quote from one of the most quotable men who ever lived.  It comes from an episode of The Cosmos we watched the other day that happened to have  a section about books.  I love how Carl Sagan reminds us of the wonder of everything around us if only we stop to think on it.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
-Carl Sagan, The Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Episode 11: The Persistence of Memory

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