Why Do I Keep a Library?

Hope.

My father keeps a library. His father and mother had books and albums of photographs galore. My mother keeps a library. Her mother and father did not. Visits to my grandparents homes felt different, and the difference was most obviously, to me, in the books.

I grew up among books. They were my playground, my refuge, my adventure-land. I could retreat to the library and lie with National Geographic, the World Book Encyclopedia, or ancient Triple-A maps. There lived philosophies, prophets, histories, fantasies, adventures. I traveled to far distant Camelot with a Connecticut Yankee. I never thought I wouldn’t keep a library.

But the reason for it was the future: my children would laugh and play here too.

They haven’t, not as I thought.

Their pleasures have been, in large part, electronic. What is there to see and love in a virtual world? How do you pass it on? My youngest, No. 2 Son, recently excavated the Apple Macintosh LC-III that I kept because maybe one day I might need it. It holds nothing much. I never bought much software, and toward the end it was not much more than an e-World terminal. He’s been playing Sim City 2000 (1993).

I feel a certain nostalgia, but of what use is an LC-III now? I regret my digital life. What is there to show of what I’ve done? I may have saved some documents, but who can read them? Even an audio recording of my grandparents needs a cassette player. Consider this website: It is not just HTML and CSS and a smattering of PNG images. It is WordPress and PHP and Apache and MySQL and FreeBSD and Pair.com and electricity and the Internet. What future does it have? It hardly holds interest for anyone now; of what interest will it be when I am gone?

But books, barring insect, fire, or flood, will remain.

And if my children do not play here, perhaps one day my grandchildren will.

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