Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On burning books - thoughts on books as sacred object vs. knowledge holders

I stumbled across an interesting post from a librarian who created a display for banned book week. Of course, this wasn't just any old poster session about Banned Book Week -- no, this one actually contained books that she had burned. Responding to some feedback about this particular display and her actions, Jessica blogged these thoughts:

Personally? I love books. Love them to pieces. I'm a bibliophile of the first order. I love the smell of old books, the soft *crack* when you open a new hardcover book for the first time, and the rustle of pages turning. I grieve when someone tells me they don't like to read, because reading is such a huge part of my life.
Professionally? I'm a librarian, not a curator of a collection of books. Books are just one (sometimes small) part of what I do for a living. Further, being a librarian means I get rid of books sometimes......
 I get rid of them, most times without the slightest regret, because books are NOT sacred objects. They are just objects.  
On the other hand, information (and access thereto), education, and learning ARE sacred.  
Postcards from the Deep
 I sometimes use snippets of book pages in my artwork and while I haven't received any negative feedback about it (YET), I am sure some wonder why *I* as a librarian would do such a thing.

However, the books I use are not books as art or sacred objects - no first editions, no significant literary works, etc. (Yes, it is a subjective criteria). The book as a medium to communicate information has little intrinsic value beyond its information; however, when it approaches a level of art through quality paper, bindings, illustrations, marginalia, printing technique, number of the printing or edition, among other characteristics, then it moves from a container of information to a sacred object. In some cases what is sacred is what we - archives, libraries, museeums - say so.  

Even knowing a particular book was unloved or unappreciated enough for no one to want it, I do feel a moment of sadness when I rip out pages of a book or cut it up. In spite of my educated viewpoint in terms of book as communication device vs. sacred object, I wonder if I am still destroying knowledge or extinguishing a human voice. However, I am also giving new life to the book and truly making it into a sacred object - a one of a kind piece of artwork.

Information is important, the medium, not so much (as long as it is accessible). There are books to me that are sacred (an early edition William Wordsworth collection of poetry that I own; the book I wrote and illustrated in 2nd grade), but for the most part, no.Obviously the book I wrote in second grade has no value beyond sentimentality, but that is important, too.


No comments: