What makes a library?

Recently I have found myself in conversations — with individuals or in reading — about what books should be in a library. The main character in Ivan Doig’s book Work Song feels that a library without Caesar’s Gallic Wars is just a storehouse for trashy books (he names H. Rider Haggard and Mary V. Terhune, this being a historical novel.) Richard Russo, author of the great Empire Falls, finds himself resentful when he has to read something, rather than rereading a favorite such as Little Dorrit.  One patron was pleased to see our October display of Award Winners (which included Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners) rather than more popular fiction.

Yet, the books with long hold lists are not the award winners (except maybe Laura Hildenbrand’s Unbroken.) Instead, they are the page-turners or character-driven novels that allow us to escape our own problems and think about someone else’s. Series novels give us someone to root for as we would for a sports team. Romances give us that surge of emotion that can be missing from our lives. Mysteries give us problems with solutions, unlike real life.

If a book is well-written, all the better. Then you enjoy the language as well as the plot. Both of our November book discussion books fit this description. Neither will be “classics” in fifty years, but they are both thought-provoking and took me away from my other concerns.

What do you think should be in a library? Books that are circulating or books that are on the “best” lists? This isn’t even discussing nonfiction which is also subject to the question of “outdated” information.

By the way, we do not own Gallic Wars, but we do own Caesar’s Civil Wars.

My personal book count is up to 90 books with 2 months to go.  I don’t think I’ll finish Les Miserables, however, which I was trying to do. I got farther this year than I had before.