Books Before TV: The Librarian’s Challenge

I had an interesting idea this evening. This probably will not come as a surprise to anyone, but I own tons of books I haven’t read yet.  Beyond the backlog of books I myself own, I also have four already checked out from the library and a list of 70 items that I intend to check out when I have a chance. Clearly, I’ve got a lot of reading to do, yet over and over again, I waste what free time I have on doing stupid things, like watching a bunch of so-so at best movies and TV shows.

The idea is simple: no more TV-watching until I finish every book in this house.

This is just part of my library, to give you a sense of the scale of what we’re talking
about here.  I don’t know how many books this is or how many of them are unread,
but I will count tomorrow and report back.

Here are the stipulations:

  1. This includes books I have not read that are  in the house as of this moment (and the books in my office that I checked out and haven’t brought home yet).  I wouldn’t be buying more books right now anyway, since Christmas is almost here, but if I am given books, they do not count in this challenge. Also, this only includes actual, physical books, not e-books or articles on my iPad.
  2. Both fiction and non-fiction count, but not books one would not normally read cover-to-cover, like a cookbook, dictionary, knitting pattern book, or the like.
  3. The sad fact is that there are some books on my shelf that I probably don’t want to read.  They sounded good at the time, but then I found I couldn’t get into them, so they went back on the shelf in hopes that I would enjoy them more at some later date.  Well, hopefully that date is now, because if not, those suckers are getting donated.  Each book will get two tries.  If I start a book and I’m really not able to get into it, it moves to the back of the line.  After I finish everything else, I try it again.  If I still don’t like it, it gets donated.
  4. There will be no TV-watching of any kind, including movies, TV shows, documentaries, or the like.  Short internet clips, like  Youtube videos under five minutes long or videos of my friends’ adorable children, are permitted.  Also, having the iTunes visualizer on the TV while I’m listening to music and doing the Sunday crossword or cooking is permitted.
  5. Watching TV in a social setting is permitted. In other words, I can watch if I get invited to go to a movie, have a friend over and he or she would like to watch TV, or go to someone else’s house and he or she suggests we watch TV.  In those situations, I wouldn’t be reading a book anyway (I think the person I’m with might find that a bit rude).  It only makes sense to cut the TV when reading is the alternative activity.
  6. There’s no time limit or deadline on this – I continue until I either finish or donate every unread book on my shelf (and return the ones checked out from the library) or I declare defeat, possibly risking having my Awesome Librarian badge revoked.
  7. To be clear, I’m still allowed to do other leisure activities – it doesn’t have to be all reading all the time.  I’m just not allowed to watch TV.

So that’s the challenge.  I was thinking I’d wait till after the holidays and consider this my New Year’s resolution, but you know, I’m thinking why wait?  Why waste another day boring myself with pointless TV?  Starting tomorrow, no more TV for me.

So how about you?  I imagine at least some of you reading this have a similar situation.  It may not be books and TV, but I challenge you to think about what you’d like to get around to doing and what you’ve been wasting your time on instead.  Set a finite goal and commit to avoid wasting time on the other thing.  Come on, you know you want to play along with me!  If you’re doing it, tell me about it in the comments!

By the way, in case you’re curious about my list of books to checkout, it’s saved as an Amazon Wishlist.  To be clear, I don’t want to actually own any of these – just check them out from the library.  So if you are a person who happens to be shopping for me and you stumble upon this, that’s very nice of you, but I don’t need to own these 🙂  It’s almost all non-fiction, but there’s a little fiction toward the end.

“A gift in support of libraries, books, works, ideas.”

I woke up this morning to find a lovely little gem in my Facebook inbox.  My cousin, who shares my love of literature, sent me this fascinating link to a page on the mystery book sculptures of Edinburgh.  In March of this year, someone in the Scottish Poetry Library found this beautiful paper sculpture, made from books, and addressed to the library’s Twitter account, @byleaveswelive.

Photos courtesy of Chrisdonia, poster of the original article at Central Station.

They thought it was pretty cool, obviously, but little did they know that more of these incredible pieces would pop up at various libraries and book venues around Edinburgh over the course of the next several months.  Ten in all were left in various libraries, given “in support of libraries, books, works, ideas.”

Although some speculated as to who the mysterious gift-giver could be, the identity of this incredible artist remains unknown. A longer, typed, note accompanying one of the final pieces reveals that the artist is a woman, but that you won’t find her among the community of well-known book artists, as this was her first foray into art with books.  It’s hard to believe, because the pieces are incredible.  The attention to detail is astounding; the time it must have taken to craft these works must have been extensive.  Just look at these hand-crafted feathers from another piece left in the Scottish Poetry Library.

I love everything about this story.  The mystery artist, identity unknown.  The sculptures left behind in libraries, just waiting to be discovered – some were tucked in rather inconspicuous places and no one is sure how long they sat there before being discovered.  The beauty of the pieces themselves.  The homage the artist has paid to literature, particularly Scottish literature, and even more particularly the work of Ian Rankin.

But what I love most about this is that these items were left in libraries.  Working in a library, it’s easy to sometimes feel like people don’t really appreciate everything that we have on offer.  I’ve been doing a lot of outreach lately, and it’s surprising that so many of the students and faculty I’ve been talking to don’t even know where their library is!  Perhaps this is characteristic of medical libraries (though I suspect it’s true across the boards), but people often seem to think of the library today as a virtual space.  It’s true that technology has allowed the information to go with you practically wherever you go.  I recently wrote an article for the blog of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona about tools for accessing PubMed, the sort of go-to resource for biomedical literature, from mobile devices.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great that people can get to information wherever and whenever they need it, but at the same time, I feel like people are missing out on a certain something if they never actually come into the library, meet their librarian, and actually put their hands on some books.

So for someone to leave these items as gifts for the library, sort of a thank you for the work of libraries, is quite nice.  I wish someone would do this for my library!  As long as it didn’t involve defacing rare books, of course. 🙂