I recently finished reading Larry McMurtry’s memoir of his life as a bookman, Books. Though McMurtry is probably best known to the general public for his novels and screenplays (Hud, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove, etc.), he is best known to the antiquarian bookselling community as a bookseller. He still owns an open shop, Booked Up, which was in Washington, D.C. for many years and now operates out of the “booktown” of Archer City, Texas.
Much of what McMurtry had to say about his years as a bookseller resonated with me, and I enjoyed seeing in print the names of some booksellers familiar to me. Simply put, the book is a good read and more so if you also happen to be an antiquarian bookseller.
One of the many topics the memoir addresses is the transformation of libraries into places other than repositories of books. Though I have written on this same topic on several occasions, McMurtry puts my point-of-view into words better than my own. Here’s what he has to say:
“Today the sight that discourages book people most is to walk into a public library and see computers where books used to be. In many cases not even the librarians want books to be there. What consumers want now is information, and information increasingly comes from computers.
That is a preference I can’t grasp, much less share, though I’m well aware that computers have many valid uses. They save lives, and they make research in most cases a thing that’s almost instantaneous.
They do many good things.
But they don’t really do what books do, and why should they usurp the chief function of a public library, which is to provide readers access to books? Books can accommodate the proximity of computers but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Computers now literally drive out books from the place that should, by definition, be books’ own home: the library.”
I like that this writer values the importance of print. Anyone want to make a pilgrimage to Archer City?
See you in the stacks!