Today's books and libraries
Books and libraries supposedly go together. They don't make songs about it, like ''love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage,'' because it isn't easy to rhyme anything with library. Certain things just have a tradition of going together. ''Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.'' It is firmly fixed in traditional thinking: You can't have a library without books.
The Library of Congress isn't so sure anymore.
Books multiply faster than libraries, but they don't last as long. Everyone has suspected this. We all know books in a book-store begin falling apart as soon as you look inside the cover for the price.
It is the same in a library. Libraries in the United States are all built like big bunkers on the Maginot line and will last in their present state through the 21st century. But books, like the Hardy Boys series, will by lying there waiting to be taken out by the vacuum cleaner. Unhardy specimens, becoming unglued like some of the librarians facing this dilemma.
The cause of people, as well as books, becoming unglued is that new books are pouring into the Library of Congress at the rate of 7,000 a day. That is worse than raising rabbits. Some place must be found to stack these books, let alone read them, so for every librarian the library probably has three bookcase builders.
Books wear out faster if they are read than if they are not read. So one solution would be to publish more books no one wants to read. A lot is being done in this direction.
But not reading books is not the logical solution, so in order to avoid becoming the world's largest brick garbage can, the Library of Congress has resorted to transferring books onto steel disks, which are indestructible and can store the equivalent of 300 books in a space one-sixteenth of an inch thick. Pictures and all.
We don't want to know how this is done. It has something to do with microscopic, optical laser technology, which is best left to science-fiction writers. And the whole idea terrifies anyone who likes to read in bed.
What the projecting of laser-beam books on screens will do to all our gentle, soft-spoken librarians is difficult to say. Evidently they are all going to be laser technicians with engineering degrees and come from MIT, instead of those nice ivy-covered, upstate teacher's colleges with Alma Mater.
Worst of all, it will mean an end to the bookmark, the only inexpensive gift left to buy in the world today.