Is Your “Library” Fireproof?

"our" wonderful library in town

I read an interesting book this week about a book thief. Over a period of months, this fellow methodically stole rare manuscripts and papers from a university library collection. Eventually, he was caught and prosecuted. Because of his thievery, security was significantly changed at that library and at other academic libraries.

It used to be that the greatest danger to any collection of books was either fire or water. In recent times, special foam fire retardants and vacuum systems to suck burnable oxygen out of collection storage areas have limited the risks of fire. An awareness of possible damage from water has changed where books are stored and limited the potential exposure to any type of moisture.

Today, the biggest danger to rare book collections is the risk of books being stolen, or, worse yet, being cut apart and pages being sold piece-meal.

Being a voracious reader and a complete book-a-holic, this was fascinating reading. It makes me wonder what types of protections for books are found at our local library. It shows me just how unprotected my own massive collection of books really is.

And then I came across this African Proverb, which gave me another perspective on protecting rare “books:”

“When an old man dies, a library burns.”

Maybe, just maybe, this is one of the reasons I so much enjoy “collecting” people’s stories. I consider it a great honor when someone chooses to share some of their life hiSTORIES with me. When we eventually walk away from each other after a conversation, it feels like I carry away a piece of that person in my heart, even if I never see that person again.

A few years ago, we spent 9 months traveling around the country in an RV. One of the things that I delighted in as we wandered was meeting new people and hearing their stories. We ran into an author/photographer at a remote park in Utah. As he and I talked, this fellow made an interesting observation. He told me I was like a shaman. At first I was somewhat horrified. I am a follower of Jesus, after all. How could I be a pagan, animistic religious leader?? But as he explained further, I found an underlying truth, something that resonated. He pointed out that one of the jobs of the shaman was to collect the life stories of “their” people. In doing that, the shaman kept alive those stories and the memories of those people.

Ahhh…that IS a little bit like what I do. I treasure the stories that are shared with me. I often share bits and pieces of those stories with others who might be challenged or encouraged by what was experienced and expressed by someone else. And I love to share MY stories with others patient enough to listen. The stories live on, even when the original teller is not physically present.

treasure the stories

This sharing of stories is not just a symptom of being an extrovert. It is much more rooted in being a book-lover, a STORY lover. I am making a collection of rare “books” and I am helping to prevent the burning of each life-story library when that person is no longer present.

I am helping the “libraries” become fire-proof! And that is truly something to celebrate!

So…are you protecting YOUR library, your collection of life stories? Are you reaching out to listen to the stories of those around you? And, more important, are you sharing your own stories with those you love? How will you make sure that your library can be enjoyed by the next generation; that it will not “burn” when you are gone?

My heart still has space. I would love to hear more of your story. Let’s keep our “books” from burning…