Reading still important in today’s world
by Juanita Hughes
Columnist
January 09, 2013 12:00 AM | 893 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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Someone has said that those who don’t read are no better off than those who can’t.

Although that person probably meant this to apply to books and magazines or newspapers, it’s a necessity in today’s world for any and all of us to read.

There are street signs and directions, instructional manuals, forms of all kinds … new patient forms at the doctor’s office, income tax forms, job applications, voter information and ballots … the printed word is everywhere.

Reading is essential, and it is the one clear way to acquire, obtain, absorb and retain knowledge.

“Words in print” used to mean paper with words printed on it.

Nowadays we’re surrounded by printed words on everything from bumper stickers and T-shirts that announce our personal, political, and religious views, plus a twisted sense of humor, to billboards that entice us to take our eyes off the road and rear-end the car in front of us. (The billboard was probably an attorney ad … which we might need immediately.)

Where once we were surrounded by the printed informational word only in libraries and parlors, today we have the world of the Internet at our fingertips, literally.

With the advent of wireless, memories are fading of a time when we were tethered to an electrical outlet or a telephone line.

Now we can find information without speaking a word, and without a sign of electricity, in the middle of a corn field or flying above the ocean.

Even our beloved fiction can be read on a device, no pages to turn, no bookmark needed, no author’s signature, and no shelf space required.

My long association with public libraries influences me still today as I search and research. I find myself browsing the library shelves in the aisle marked 917.58 and 975.8, Georgia geography and history, my favorite spots.

But also at the library, I can find the entire law of the state of Georgia or “Granger’s Guide to Poetry,” or “Bartlett’s Quotations,” and that great volume, “Chase’s Calendar of Events.” The current “World Almanac” was always my go-to guide for everything, a handy feast of info.

You might laugh at my choice of favorite reference books, but knowing that I can find an easily-read perpetual calendar, or all those great Mark Twain quotes, or when and where I can make a legal left turn, or where I might find that poem I memorized in fourth grade but can only recall the first line … and, in Chase’s, who else was born on my birthday or which year marks the beginning of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Don’t tell me to look it up on the Internet, please.

If I do that, I’ll miss those great quotes from other minds that happened to be placed on the same page.

For instance, have you ever heard of Phillips Brooks? He wrote the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” but gave us these not so famous words, “Life comes before literature, as the material always comes before the work. The hills are full of marble before the world blooms with statues.”

This, on the same page in Bartlett’s as Mark Twain … and Samuel Butler, who penned this thought-provoking observation, “An apology for the Devil: It must be remembered that we have only heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.”

And the Internet wouldn’t know that somehow I should glance over the other traffic laws that I might have forgotten since I got my driver’s license in 1950. And how could I lay aside “Chase’s Calendar” after discovering that I share Margaret Mitchell’s birthday when on the same page are all those other wonderful tidbits about November holidays and birthdays?

But, ah, the best of both worlds can be found in our public libraries.

Much has changed there in the past few years. The transition to a computerized information system was not easy.

From the day that the card catalog, a huge piece of furniture, was emptied of its cards and removed from the Woodstock Library building, to today’s rooms filled with computer stations, the need for more services and materials has become even more important.

A strong Friends of Cherokee County Public Libraries group works throughout the year to raise awareness and funds to keep our libraries operating in these difficult times.

You may join this organization at their annual meeting on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the R.T. Jones Library in Canton. Plans for 2013 activities will be discussed, and the featured speaker will be local author Marguerite Cline. She’s an open book.

Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.
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