Friday, January 27, 2017

Library or Landfill?

A few years back a local parish announced it was starting a library and was looking for book donations.  I emptied 400 books from my shelves, and felt somewhat satisfied when I saw many of my titles on the parish bookshelves.
Reading Michael Kelly’s recent book, Resisting Happiness, I saw where he maintained one shelf in his home of the books “which had an enormous impact on my life … in a sense my own Great Books collection.”  He noted that his favorites changed slightly over the years, but that he often went back and re-read them, and shared their titles with others. 
Many of the books I had donated to that parish library were ones I had read but wouldn’t have made it to my own “Great Books Collection,”--- if I had one.  Looking in on that parish library room recently, I was sad to notice that it was empty of people.  Shelves of books covered the walls, but no people the chairs.  Were all my “less-than Great Books” part of the problem, or was it something else?
The books I wouldn’t have recommended might possibly be of value to someone at a different level of faith understanding than I, but they were of no value if no one read them.  They’d be better off in a landfill or as fireplace kindling, to keep some home warm.  And I thought again of Matthew Kelly’s favorite books, which strengthened and grew his faith.  My favorites do the same for me, and many were among those 400 I donated, but ....
Books sitting on the shelf don’t do anything for anyone.
It appears to me that most parish libraries are wasted resources for spiritual growth.  Certainly in part because they include many junk books with little value to most people, but also because there is no “shelf of favorites,” (a librarian to select them), nor a means of encouraging their use.  Successful modern libraries are those which have found ways to encourage reading, even among the young who don’t read much, or have short attention spans.  We need to create parish libraries which are more than piles of books.
Couldn’t our parish libraries be arranged the with a “favorites shelf”?  Couldn’t an evangelization program be devised to encourage reading (if nothing else) those favorites (even the Boy Scouts have merit badges).  Couldn’t parish members be encouraged to meet and talk about these “Modern Classics”?  We have the Sacrament of Confirmation to affirm we are stepping forward in faith.  Couldn’t we create a Confirmation II as a measure that we indeed have stepped forward?
There are many great books which are great books for spiritual growth and evangelization, how do we use them?
Or should we just have a book burning, to make better use of the library space?

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