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Columbia Missourian

ROSE NOLEN: A love affair with libraries remains even in a tech-savvy world

By Rose Nolen
March 5, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

I have a love affair with libraries. I was 9 years old when I discovered them.

I had moved to the city that year. My older sister introduced me to the library and showed me how to catch the bus and get there. I learned the Dewey Decimal System and began to find my way through the racks. That first summer I spent every day there, going through the sections carefully until I learned every one of them. By the end of summer, I was regular reader.


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It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was in love with the library. It is an affair that has remained with me all my life.

I know for some people the computer has changed their life. They can sit before the machine all day. They have made friends all over the world. I know one woman who had been online less than a month and was getting dozens of emails every day. I know people who enjoy writing and have their own blogs.

I guess communication with strangers has been unique for some. I’ve always talked to strangers. I’ve talked to people everywhere. I’ve met them on buses, in hospital rooms, wherever they happen to be. So, actually, this is not unusual behavior for me.

Still, I suppose I’m not ready for a technological empire. I can’t imagine that people find the time to learn how to use all these machines. Somehow for me, none of the things work or at least I don’t know how to make them work for me. At times I find myself searching for an old typewriter that works. A writer friend has promised that he will never write another book if he has to use a computer. He is convinced that he could write a book in the time it would take him to learn how to compute.

I think that the reason computing is so easy for young people is because they never wasted their energy learning how to spell or do arithmetic in the first place, so they don’t have anything to unlearn. All they have to do is sit down and go to work.

In any case, I still find libraries fascinating. I enjoy going to book sales where they have all the books spread out on the tables. I like going through all the titles and discovering the ones I’ve never heard of but would enjoy reading. I always think of one of my sisters, who was a great reader, when I go to a sale. One year our local newspaper had a list of the 20 best-selling books of all time. My sister was feeling down at the time, and I read her the list and asked her how many she had read. She only missed five and that made her feel pretty good about herself.

My favorite library is one of Missouri’s Carnegie libraries. The beautiful building makes a beautiful home for the elegant volumes. I hate to think of books setting on orange crates.

I’ve never lived in a town where I didn’t have a library card. And although many people these days only go to the library to use the computers, I keep hoping that they might pick up a book or two and get used to reading.

Being in love with a library is easy. They’re loyal. They never let you down. There’s always another book to read. Always.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at Questions? Contact Opinion Editor Elizabeth Conner.