Alice seems to have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. In her native England during the Great Depression, she is bored and unhappy, and when she meets a handsome American man named Bennett, she quickly marries him to escape. When they relocate to his home state of Kentucky, she expects a well-to-do urban life, centered perhaps in Lexington. Instead, she finds herself in remote Eastern Kentucky, in impoverished coal country, trapped in an unhappy marriage. When the local pack horse library needs volunteers, Alice signs up, mainly as an excuse to get out of her house and away from her husband and father-in-law. At first, Alice is horrified by the rough people she encounters on her route, but she soon falls in love with her work, the people, and the mountains. Still, the solace she finds in work does nothing to ease her troubles at home. Complications ensue. . . .
Usually, I try to do a book review for the second week of every month, but I wanted to take a break from our regular blog programming to chat about some exciting new developments here at the Berryville Public Library. . . .
Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For January, we’re looking at a prestigious annual literary collection, a standalone mystery from one of the most popular crime writers working today, and a profile of the Los Angeles library system.
This past weekend, Forbes published an op-ed that advocated for libraries being shut down and replaced by Amazon bookstores, all in the name of saving people tax money. Due to widespread public outrage, the piece has apparently been pulled, though it is still preserved on the Wayback Machine. I wrote this response while the article was still on Forbes’s website, and we are still posting it because we want to educate people about the role of public libraries and their very real value to their communities.
As someone who has spent the last 10 years working for the Berryville Public Library and is currently a member of our Friends of the Library board, I was horrified by the measures the Forbes editorial recommended. But I was also disturbed by the number of misconceptions that Panos Mourdoukoutas, the author of the piece, seems to have about what libraries actually do and the services they provide their communities.
He notes that in the past libraries provided resources like books, magazines, and journals, as well as quiet research places, comfortable places to enjoy books, space for community events, video rentals, and free internet access. However, according to his reasoning, these things can all be sought elsewhere, including Starbucks and Amazon bookstores.
I have been hearing these doom-and-gloom pronouncements about how outdated libraries are and how they are shortly on their way toward the fate of dinosaurs and dodos since I was first hired by a library. Inevitably, I have always found that they are perpetuated by people who have outdated ideas of what libraries do.