If you participate in Pine City Reads, the community-wide reading event, you might have read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury this winter. One of the main themes of the book is a lack of access to ideas and information. In Bradbury’s dystopian future, all books are banned. Some resist this, reading in secret and risking imprisonment or death for their crimes, but others are content to spend their lives glued to vapid yet immersive television programs or engaged in other types of media overload.
Bradbury’s novel is much more intricate than this, but today I want to focus on this aspect of the story. As one of Bradbury’s characters explains, their world ended up like this—with no legal access to books—not because censorship started from the top down, with the government imposing it upon the populace, but because over time people electively stopped reading.
Fortunately, this dystopian future is not a reality, but the subject matter tends to foster a discussion about reading that involves some important questions. How often do we read? How important is it to our daily lives? Why does it matter if we read at all?
To summarize a 2006 research overview from the National Literacy Trust, reading helps us in many ways–to foster personal development, to learn about a variety of subjects (everything from science to history to pop culture and beyond), and to feed our imaginations. It helps us to be informed and to achieve a level of literacy that empowers us, especially in the frequent information overload of the 21st century. Last but not least, all readers know that it can be fun, immersive, and deeply affecting, touching us emotionally and impacting our beliefs, goals, and worldview.
We librarians want you to read, for all these benefits and more. No matter the genre—true crime, romance novels, mysteries, spy thrillers, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, biographies, etc. No matter the topic—health, history, debt-free living, car repair, cooking, parenting advice, craft projects, genealogy, etc. No matter the format—books, audiobooks, newspapers, magazines, graphic novels, paperbacks, or eBooks. Even if you prefer to buy all your books, spending money on every title you read, we’re thrilled that you’re reading—just remember that our public libraries also frequently sell used books to raise money for library programs and services for our communities.
I have been told, from time to time, that eBooks and e-readers are the enemy of libraries. This is untrue. We want you to read any format that is accessible and comfortable for you. The East Central Regional Library’s vision is “To assist people of all ages in addressing their informational, educational, and recreational needs in an ever-changing world…” In our ever-changing world, technology is not the enemy of the library, but an empowering tool that we can use to expand our reach and achieve our goals. Remember that you can also check out downloadable audiobooks and eBooks through our website.
So, we hope you take the time to read today, no matter where you got the book from, how you read it, or what it’s about. Just remember that we’re here to help you, and that all ECRL librarians and staff are happy to help you find reading materials whenever you need or want them.
-Robin Duple, Pine City Branch Librarian