Nancy Kipping mentioned this in her last post, and it made me think of something that Dr. David Carr, one of my amazing and inspirational professors at the Rutger’s library school, once offered as food for thought years ago. I feel privileged to have learned from David, as I know many, many of my colleagues do, and I remember that he once asked us to consider that if you’re lucky enough to live to age 90, and you manage to read one book a week, every single week – never skipping – every month – every year, starting from when you’re say, as young as 10 years old… that means you’ll get to read 4,160 books in your lifetime.
Now, on one hand that’s a lot of books, but it’s also a very, very tiny subset of all the books out there. What that number is might be hard to pin down precisely (and I’m a librarian!) but conservative estimates put it at well over 1,000,000 every year (many now self-published) – some sources go much, much higher – and that’s not taking into account all the books that have previously been published since Gutenberg (arguably) got the ball rolling with his movable type produced bible almost 600 years ago in the 1450s. It’s hard enough to keep up with what’s new, let alone consider all the must-read classics on your “I’m going to get to it someday” list.
And of course some of us read faster than that, or can read more than one book at a time, or start at age 5… or will live to 105 – and this isn’t taking into account in all the newspapers, magazines, short stories, e-books, emails, websites, tweets, instagrams, Facebook pages, texts, blogs, letters and every other little printed thing vying for your attention every day (and this is also assuming that you rarely or never watch TV, or a video, or go to a movie, or a play, or a concert, or engage in pretty much any other leisure activity). But you get the idea.
To me, all of this says choose carefully… but choose and keep reading!
If you’d like to learn a bit from the brilliant David Carr, here are a few things to consider:
A beautiful lecture from 2013 called Communities of Aspiration with wide-ranging thoughts on libraries, learning, museums, education and more.
His most recent book: Open Conversations: Public Learning in Libraries and Museums