If you are reading this, you probably read more than just quaint blog posts. You might have a list of trusted sites you regularly browse, or perhaps you let an algorithm assemble content for you. Either way, information is liable to come at you fast in the form of tawdry headlines illustrated with photographic click-bait or in tweet-size bursts that belie the complex stories hidden behind shortened links. In the midst of all the media vying for our attention, I’d like to offer a classic suggestion: the book.
All of the books below are part of the library’s local history collection. While some of our published material is in the public domain and can be found in the Internet Archive, there is a special experience that comes from holding a book, flipping to a random page, and catching the smell of stale pages while you try to make sense of antiquated grammar. On computers, it is all to easy to forgo traditional reading and fall into habits like skimming, scrolling, and skipping. Slowing down and taking it one page at a time puts your brain on a different track than furiously browsing the internet or letting your screen’s backlight wear down your eyes.
Any good librarian will advise you to consult a diverse set of sources. Consulting different mediums (internet, magazines, books, podcasts) and perspectives (conservative, liberal, radical, moderate) will ensure that your information is more reliable and meaningful. Far from being another cliche one hears about how “distracted” we are today, the suggestion to slow down and spend some time with a book is about more than counteracting the effects of pervasive digital technology. It is an invitation to treat the public library as a sanctuary for self-direction and intellectual freedom, as a place for reading and renewal.
The featured image is a portrait of Washington Irving spending time with a book. It is the frontispiece in the Irving Association publication.