Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Just about everyone has seen the blue street signs with the big white H and an arrow pointing the way to the nearest hospital. Now our roads are fringed by a similar kind of road marker with a prominently displayed L doodle figure reading a book and an arrow aimed in the direction of another local institution: the public library. Such a sign reminds us that librarians serve us in much the same way as doctors and nurses and that books and other media are just as vital to our health as bandages and medicine.

In fact, recent scientific research reveals that people who read books, magazines and (ahem!) newspapers live longer. “As little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the study’s senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale.

Each year, during the second or third week of April, we celebrate National Library Week. This year that week spans April 10-16, and the theme is “Libraries Transform.” The towering French novelist Victor Hugo proclaimed, “A library implies an act of faith which generations still in darkness hid sign in their night in witness of the dawn.” Four years ago that torch was enkindled when, after 30 years of planning and anticipation, our resplendent San Diego Central Library celebrated its grand opening.

Books live. Books endure and prevail.  A woman telephoned an Atlanta library and asked, “Can you please tell me where Scarlet O’Hara is buried?”
The librarian explained, “Scarlet is a fictional character in Margaret Mitchell’s novel ‘Gone With the Wind’.”
“Never mind that,” said the caller. “I want to know where she’s buried.”
For that reader, Scarlet O’Hara had been so alive that now she was dead.

Books move. Books do not sit still.  The first bookmobile in the United States, a horse-drawn wagon operated by a county library in Hagerstown, Maryland, began making its rounds in 1905. But the first bookmobile in western history was, perhaps, the property of the Dutch humanist writer Desiderius Erasmus, who wrote the first best seller, “In Praise of Folly.” Erasmus had few personal possessions outside of his books, and he declared: “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. My luggage is my library. My home is where my books are.” No surprise then that in Erasmus’s caravan during his travels throughout 16th-century Europe, one donkey was reserved exclusively to carry his books.

Near the end of the 10th century, well before Erasmus, lived Abdul Kassem Ismael, the Grand Vizier of Persia. Wherever Ismail traveled, he took his 117,000-volume library, strapped to his 400 camels. To expedite his reading pleasure, the camels that made up his mile-long bookmobile caravan were trained to walk in alphabetical order, each flock carrying titles beginning with one of the 32 letters in the Persian alphabet.

Books are not just inert objects to be used for a brief while and returned to the shelf. Like Erasmus and Abdul Kassem Ismael, true bibliophiles carry their libraries around with them wherever they go. Emily Dickinson, who went on expeditions everywhere while she remained at her home in Amherst Massachusetts, knew that bookmobility travels two ways, that our books also take us with them:

      There is no Frigate like a Book

            To take us Lands away

      Nor any Coursers like a Page

            Of Prancing Poetry.

           

      This Traverse may the poorest take

            Without oppress of Toll

      How frugal is the Chariot

            That bears the Human Soul.

Librarians are the rare profession named after the buildings in which they serve. After all, doctors and nurses aren’t called hospitalarians and lawyers aren’t courtiers. Blessed be our nation’s librarians. Amalgams of scholars, teachers, indexers, counselers, traffic controllers, janitors and baby-sitters, they march in the company of secular saints. May their tribe increase and multiply.

*****

Richard Lederer will be performing a unique folk concert, “Dances with Words,” on Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 pm, at the Georgina Cole Library, 1250 Carlsbad Village Drive, in Carlsbad, and on Wednesday, April 19, 10:30 am, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 16275 Pomerado Road,  in Poway. Both concerts are free, and worth every penny. He’d love to meet you there.