Before Amazon.com sold its first book on the Internet in 1995, people seeking books shopped in bookstores—some forty in Baltimore City alone. They borrowed books from libraries and from friends. And they discussed books in person: at book club meetings, in doctors’ waiting rooms, over a beer or on the beach. While some of these “book places” continue to be as vital as ever, others have virtually (no pun intended) disappeared. Most of us buy most of our books online now. We search for reviews on the Web instead of asking our neighbors or hairdresser what they’re reading lately. We read in private, keeping an eye on our smartphones so we won’t miss any incoming texts or emails.
And the literary landscape itself has shifted and expanded, too. E-books, Kindles, fan fiction, and social media outlets like Facebook and Goodreads have individualized reading experiences and used the Internet to bring together the literarily like-minded across wide expanses of time and space. People read not just books, newspapers, and magazines, but tweets, blogs, Instagrams and Tumblrs.
What is the place of the book? And what are the places that foster reading—in the past, and in our digital present? This exhibit, curated and researched by students in Professor Jean Lee Cole’s EN 369 Novel in America course, provides glimpses into these Book Places, and reflects on the place of place in reading today.
Photos from the exhibit presented at the Loyola-Notre Dame Library:
August 2014 UPDATE: Book Places lives on!
Ever since Book Places closed in February, we have been trying to get one of the objects included in the exhibit permanently installed on the Loyola campus. And here, at last, is the fruit of our efforts: Branch #9247 of the Little Free Library network, a small but very tangible “book place” that is now located along a walkway between the student center (right by Starbucks!), the humanities building, and practice fields. What better place for books: in the heart of the campus community?
Faculty at Loyola often complain about the fact that our campus’ “real” library is practically off campus–about a five-minute walk away from the main quad, and a 15-minute walk away from the west-side campus dorms. We thought having books available on the main campus, for free, would be something the community would appreciate. And they seem to be appreciating it quite a lot–after only 3 days in operation, we have had to replenish the books twice already! And it seems to be noticed by many of the prospective students (or I should say, their parents), who walk right past it on the admissions tour and also often can be found at the tables nearby partaking of a grande latté after visiting the campus bookstore.
It is wonderful to see the library being used. Once the semester begins, the English Department’s literary society, LoCoLitSo (Loyola College Lit Society) will be continuing to update the library “collection.”
This exhibit, presented at Loyola University Maryland from January 14-February 5, 2014, was produced with the generous support of the Loyola University Maryland Center for the Humanities, the Department of English, American Studies at Loyola, and the Loyola Notre Dame Library.