On April 19, 2023

Keep books in libraries 

Dear Editor, 

As members of the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association, we have dedicated a portion of our lives to the care of used and rare books.  Our shops exist to aggregate good books and to find suitable homes for each. Unsurprisingly, we were horrified to learn of the state university administration’s decision to eliminate physical books from their libraries. Paraphrasing Cicero: “A library without books is like a body without a soul.”

 Learning cannot be conflated with the mere acquisition of information. Rather, education – and the books that fill libraries are pathways to opening minds, to developing curiosity and to the extraordinary pleasure of pursuing that curiosity to wherever it leads.  Information alone – whatever its format – simply cannot do this.  

 The digitization of information and the computers and internet which undergird it provide enormous benefits.  A university library without access to digital information is unthinkable, but so too is a library without books. This is not an either or proposition. 

Digital information is a great way to get answers to the questions you’ve already asked, but only books can stir the imagination to ask the questions you hadn’t thought of previously. Anyone who has tried to browse books on the internet understands this difference.  You may find the book you were looking for easily on the internet, but in a library it might be sitting next to the one you didn’t know existed, but which changed your life.

 “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators,” said Stephen Fry.

John Greenberg, The Bear Bookshop, on behalf of the officers and membership of  Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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