by Matthew Tansek, Head Editor, INALJ Rhode Island
Our Shelves Have Changed: A Look at the Evolving Home Library
There are many articles floating around that would seem to suggest that the home library is going the way of the parlor or the coat room – a throwback to when people read books printed on paper and had not yet learned of the glorious distraction of the television or computer. Many seem to predict that the personal library will only exist in that glowing line between the processors and our fingers. And while I can’t claim that most people have a physical library in their homes, I do suggest that those who love books will never completely trade their shelves in for an electronic equivalent. Simply put, what we have in our home is changing, and I think for the better!
An unofficial armchair poll of my bibliophile friends I think shows what would be found on a more grand scale. Certain books that don’t translate well into electronic format (especially those that contain a lot of images or diagrams) are still bought like they always have been, and so find places on our shelves. But a greater degree of books that we have a passion for, or have touched us deeply also are what we have all gone out of way to buy. So what does this mean? In short, I and the people I’ve talked to have essentially opted for quality over quantity. No longer do our home libraries contain tattered paperback copies of books (or at least they do to a much lower degree) and look akin to an airport book swap. Instead they are made up of personally significant material, and contain a much higher degree of visual material that simply does not look the same on a digital screen. Cheaper books that we estimate we’ll only read once (that in my case fall often onto the pop culture category) are the ones that exist digitally in my own and in my interviewers’ collection.
This can have profound effects on a library’s collection development, or a publishers advertising strategy. Future success in both cases revolves around knowing what to market in what category, and why I think it’s worth thinking about.