Thursday 26 March 2015

Travel[ling] books

A while back, I was drawing attention to the Cheekpoint Book Exchange, which unaccountably hasn't yet featured in the Russianside blog.  That oversight is probably an example of familiarity blindness - you just can't see the extraordinary if it is right under your nose on a daily basis. The current Western economic model privileges growth over all other economic indicators, as if there is no limit to available resources.  I really think it would be better for the planet if J.K. Rowling and her publishers had chopped down fewer trees to print millions of copies of Harry Potter and the Infinite Papermill.  I don't want to stop children reading about Potter and fantasising about flying on broom-sticks, that's all good fun and mostly harmless.
  • What to do?  Get more readers for each printed copy.
  • How do we do it? Open more libraries.
Not necessarily 10,000 book libraries run by the County but small libraries with a rapid turnover, such as is shown above left being opened by Ruth Parker longtime resident of Great Budworth in Cheshire, UK.  The Parish Council purchased the iconic red telephone box in the village from BT for a token £1 under the Adopt a Kiosk scheme. Several other mini-libraries have been opened in kiosks across the UK.  But the weather-proof boxes have also been re-purposed as art galleries and as housing for de-fibrillators.  It's not obvious that widespread availability of defibrillators has a cost-effective benefit to human health although they have enormously benefitted Philips the multinational electronics giant because "The only automated external defibrillator approved for home use without a prescription is the Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator".

Mais revenons nous a nos livres.  We had friends to lunch on the brilliant sunny Saturday last.  Back in the day, when he was very young, the chap had been a trainee padre to the Mersey Missions to Seamen. He's spent most of his life in theatre, and being a priest is not so very different. One of the services which the Missions provided were book-bags: a canvas dunny sack with a draw-string top that was filled with reading matter and topped with an invemtory. While there were limits to what sort of books went into the sack - the Missions were firmly in the Anglican Christian tradition - it was by no means only bibles and religious tracts. The Merchant Marine covered the globe and these bags could be exchanged in Rangoon or Buenos Aires as easily as in Liverpool. Those books were well-travelled and well-used before they fell apart entirely.  Books are for reading - they are just a fire-hazard sitting on a shelf.

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