I have a Nook Color on which I can download and read books. I signed up the other day for our local library program which allows me to download books from the library. I suddenly realized how much our lives had changed.
When I was a child in the 30's the library was like a church, elevated in our minds to something hallowed. When as a child one got their own library card it was a badge of honor. It meant you were old enough to be trusted with a book I remember so well the absolute quiet. The hushed whispers of the librarian at the desk as she helped a customer. The dark wood and deep carpet that conveyed the feeling of permanence and upright, middle class values.
We were allowed to check out five books at a time. As children, however, we were only allowed to check out books from the children's section. The feeling seemed to be that adult literature would taint our innocent minds. Every summer there were special programs to encourage children to read. One year it was pirate treasure. You registered and were given a map. For every book you read the librarian took your map and marked anothe spot on the trail to the buried treasure. When your map was complete you got to open a large trunk at one end of the library and choose the treasure you wanted, and they were treasures indeed to us children who ran home with our choice to show everyone. Amid the ohs and ahs we were, for a moment, a star.
Now I sit at my computer, look through a list of books, and download my choice to my ebook reader. Perhaps it is more convenient, but it lacks something, something I can't quite define, something that I am afraid someday will be gone forever.