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Books Bad. Libraries Good.  June 3, 2005

Miranda PJ — June 3 @ 12:20pm

I’ve got a bone to pick with the paper industry. On a personal level, it’s my husband’s career; he took a job in the Potlatch toilet paper plant instead of going to law school. But that’s a separate issue.

Paper destroys our environment, and I’m not talking about trees either. Paper production releases millions of pounds of known toxins. Let me fill you in on a few of these.

Paper pollution once included the deadly PCBs that will continue to contaminate our precious water supply for another century. Nowadays, deadly toxins produced by the manufacture of paper include toxic solvents used to break down pulp, chlorine compounds that bleach the paper, and mercury based biocides that prevent bacterial growth.

Paper mills are tremendous sources of dangerous green house gasses like carbon dioxides, acid rain factors like nitrous oxide, poisons like carbon monoxide and airborne mercury and arsenic, and respiratory irritants like sulfur dioxide, which smells perfectly awful.

Paper mills also consume immense amounts of water, diminishing the amount of water available to the communities where they operate. This increases the price of water paid by the working class communities that surround paper mills. There are never upscale neighborhoods next to a paper mill.

Large industries are the Gadianton Robbers of our day, and the paper industry is no exception. While working class people toil endlessly to make their way, the paper industry gets special privileges from nearly every level of government. For nearly a century, the paper industry has made its money with the help of tax breaks, subsidized energy, subsidized water, and environmental loopholes.

Recycling is not the solution. Paper fibers wear out, and they just can’t be recycled indefinitely. Thus, paper fibers remain a leading type of solid waste filling our landfills. Ink, dye, clay coating on glossy paper, and pigments are washed off of paper during the recycling process and dried into a sludge that also creates an enormous amount of solid waste.

We are purchasing and disposing of more paper than ever. Giant bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble sell more and more books while library usage continues to drop. Before the “paperless office,” memos were sent in a chain around an office. Now electronic documents are distributed, and everyone prints their own copy. Something has got to give.

Thanks to my husband’s career, all of this puts food on our table. I struggle with this every day. I can understand why conservatives don’t care about this. But even the most ardent environmentalists don’t think twice about the books that they buy or how much toilet paper they use.

The scriptures tell us that we need to protect our environment and use our resources wisely, as Rusty pointed out so well on Nine Moons.

Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)

For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. (D&C 104:13)

When I was a child, my parents took me to the library every weekend. We were reasonably affluent, but neither my friends nor I owned more than 10 or 15 children’s books. My acquaintances now have bookshelves filled with children’s books, but they’ve never spent a moment with their children in a library. This is the consumer economy at its worst.

And this issue with books raises a larger issue. In a world where many non-Mormon families watch television, talk on the phone, or browse the internet in their own rooms, going to the library is not just a matter of saving our environment. It’s also a matter of spending time with our families. Just as Mormon’s are less likely to give their children their own television, phone, or computer, shouldn’t we regularly take our kids to the library? Isn’t buying fewer books and spending more time at a library something that we can all agree on? Why do we need to buy so many books? Shouldn’t libraries especially be a shoe-in for Mormons because it’s family time they don’t have to pay for?

39 Comments

  1. As far as I can tell, most Mormon families I know regularly go to the library. I know we do.

    About paper- I work in a large law firm, and we print reams upon reams upon reams of paper every day- much of which just ends up in the shredder. It’s too bad. We make pdf copies of almost everything, but then it always gets printed up any way. I’m not sure how to combat it, other than just trying to limit the amount I, myself, print up.

    Thoughful post about the evils of the paper industry.

    Jordan — June 3, 2005 @ 12:31pm
  2. Miranda, I think that the evils of paper aside, we should constantly be searching to expand our horizons and learn new things. IMHO libraries are crucial to this. I’m happy to live in a city with the one of best libraries in the world — and it was in Ghostbusters!

    Jenn — June 3, 2005 @ 12:39pm
  3. Shouldn’t you go after the periodical readers before the book collectors? At least books are supposed to last longer than one day or a week.
    Secondly, while libraries do have advantages, they also are pretty inefficient. 90% of the books just rot on the shelf while everyone scrambles after the four copies of the newly released best seller. After a while, the library will sell the unread books and they’ll be pulped.
    And let’s not even calculate the number of gallons of gasoline burned ferrying people to and from the library.

    NFlanders — June 3, 2005 @ 12:40pm
  4. Miranda writes:

    But even the most ardent environmentalists don’t think twice about the books that they buy or how much toilet paper they use.

    Thank you so much for your post. Somehow, I never thought about that before. But now, I have seen the light. I’m going down to Home Depot right now, to buy myself a bidday (sp?). And if they don’t have one for sale, I figure I can rig something up with a little PVC pipe and some caulking.

    Only then can I be content, as I sit on my throne, reveling in my solitude. Yes, I’m going to sit and sit and sit. I’m going to sit for so long that people will start to think that “A Hundred Years of Solitude” refers to me and my porcelain friend.

    And I’ll be reciting Shakespear (sp?) and Langston Hughes to myself, all the while.

    Steve's Evil Twin — June 3, 2005 @ 1:32pm
  5. Steve’s Evil Twin (aka KAIMI): you are just bizarre.

    Steve Evans — June 3, 2005 @ 1:33pm
  6. Steve,

    You only wish you knew who your evil twin is, buddy. I would take a moment to tell you. But not now. My bidday is calling to me. Sweet, sweet bidday. The sweet refreshing feeling of running water. And sweet vanilla frangrance.

    Kaimi's Evil Twin — June 3, 2005 @ 1:39pm
  7. Kaimi, though DKL would love to think of you being in the same category as he is, you should find the idea insulting. Straighten up so that we can take you with some modicum of seriousness.

    Miranda PJ — June 3, 2005 @ 1:44pm
  8. Miranda, you strike me as the kind of person who would be well informed of the dangers of the deadly chemical dihydrogen monoxide. You should really check out this website, if you haven’t already. And I’m not just saying that because my husband took a job with Sparkletts.

    Rosalynde — June 3, 2005 @ 2:01pm
  9. Evil Twin,

    You know, if you’re going to be using my name, you might try cracking open a dictionary once in a while. It’s not particularly difficult. They’re even available online. So you can check, for instance, the correct spelling of “bidet.” (See also the correct spelling of Shakespeare). See — that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    The real Kaimi

    (who doesn’t mind all that much having an evil twin — though it is kind of strange — but would certainly prefer a twin who didn’t misspell common words).

    Kaimi — June 3, 2005 @ 2:08pm
  10. You guessed correctly, Rosalynde. I’m quite familiar with the harmful risks of diyhydrogen monoxide. It frightens me enough that I’ve taken action to protect my children: they have started swimming lessons this week at our neighborhood’s concrete lined diyhydrogen monoxide reservoir.

    Miranda PJ — June 3, 2005 @ 2:14pm
  11. After a while, the library will sell the unread books and they’ll be pulped.

    No, the library will sell the unread books and they will become a part of my personal collection. This is the circle of life.

  12. Jordan, thanks for being aware. I hope that you’re right about Mormons going to the library more often than others.

    Jenn, you’re so lucky to live in a city that has such outstanding libraries. And Ghostbusters? You’re always so funny.

    NFlanders, you bring up a good point about periodicals. I read many of those at the library, too. But I do subscribe to some. Thanks to what you said, I’m going to save some money and some paper and take my own advice about going to the library.

    I think that your math is off on the books being disposed of. If you ask anyone with a large book collection whether they’ve read all of the books, they tell you that they haven’t. People buy them for show. Most books that get purchased don’t get read anyway. So if they’re not going to get read, it is better to have one unread book sitting in a library than millions sitting in homes.

    Kaimi, you run your own blog. So you know how transparent it is to us when someone tries to post under multiple handles.

    And The Only True and Living Nathan, thanks for making a plug for buying used books. That’s another very good solution to the environmental problem that I’m trying to identify.

    Miranda PJ — June 3, 2005 @ 3:16pm
  13. Miranda,

    I can only speak for myself here, but I have 4 young children and the library scares me. We go because my children think it is just the greatest place ever. To me it is like a house of horrors.

    My children love books. They love to carry them around, they love to read them while they eat, while they are falling asleep, while they are using the bathroom, while they are outside, while they are riding in the car, you get the picture. Our books are “well loved” and they look “well loved”. Books at the library never look so “well loved”. My children don’t keep really great track of their books either. Books can disappear for very long periods of time at our house.

    Library books frighten me with their glossy clean pages and crisp new covers. I am afraid my children will rip the living daylights out of them and then lose them for months at a time. All this resulting in my owing the public library a fortune that my conscience won’t allow me to ignore.

    However, my children love the idea of the library so here is the drill: We go, check out 2 books per child, put them in the “library bag”, come home, read the books under careful adult supervision one time as fast as I can, return the books directly to the library bag, put the library bag in the car, return to the library as soon as possible.

    This doesn’t exactly promote a love of books and learning. I prefer to just go to the local bookstore, pay for the book once and let the kids enjoy.

    diet coke — June 3, 2005 @ 3:33pm
  14. Libraries are all full of libarel books bought by libarel big government. Sure you can take your kids there, but you have to check your brain at the door.
    How come you never see Ann Coulter and David Limbaugh books at the library, huh?

    whatever — June 3, 2005 @ 3:42pm
  15. Our library has books by both Coulter and Limbaugh. Maybe you never see them because popular books are always checked out. A quick way to find out is to go to your library’s website. Most branches will have an online catalog.

    Mari — June 3, 2005 @ 3:55pm
  16. “whatever” is joking, right? Libraries cater to their clientele. Our local branch has Coulter and Limbaugh on broad display (well, at least one of those Limbaughs), and wouldn’t be caught dead with something like Franken.

    Personally, I find that disturbing. But if you’re a-feared of the books in the library containing ideas which you don’t agree with and only want them preaching to the converted, then you should find it comforting.

  17. I have another solution to your paper-wasting new books. Buy used books! This is a perfect opportunity to plug my brother’s website, www.thriftbooks.com Cheap, used, books that won’t add any new paper to the enviroment! (and help my bro make his mortgage payment)

    Karl Butcher — June 3, 2005 @ 4:57pm
  18. You must be the one joking, The Only True Living Nathan? Walk into a library and you will see stakcs of Hilary Clintons book next to evolution next to all sorts of preverse stuff. What you won’t find is Ann Coulter or Michele Malkin or anyone else who is willing to expose the lies of the left.

    Karl Butcher, I hope your brother’s site has more than just the books that the liberal media wants you to read!

    whatever — June 3, 2005 @ 5:03pm
  19. It is truly an agnostic bookstore. With the warehouse in seattle, the books probably tend to the left a bit, but the scanners processing the books into the sytem are not trained to thow out any books that come in, left or right-wing. (although when I was with the company, I tended to hunt down and eliminate anti-mormon stuff, but I don’t think there’s even anyone doing that anymore)

    Karl Butcher — June 3, 2005 @ 6:09pm
  20. I’m lost here. What is DHMO-style parody and what isn’t? Rush Limbaugh writes books?

    foxforcefive — June 3, 2005 @ 6:19pm
  21. Miranda–Interesting post. I hate waste–it makes me sick to my stomach and it truly makes me feel that we’re being bad stewards of the earth. And I agree–the way we use paper is wasteful and irresponsible, and I’m glad that you’ve outlined the environmental costs as well. However, I heard recently (from my sister ROsalynde–Rosalynde, can you give a source on it?) that one of the biggest correlates to intelligence in children is the presence–the mere presence, not even necessarily the perusal–of books. I grew up in a house with a very large library. My dad is about as proud of his books as he is of his job, his car, and his soccer balls together. So we grew up surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, and I think it had a positive impact on all 9 children growing up in the house. So while I deplore the wastefulness that you’ve described in this consumer culture we live in, I also value the books we’ve been able to buy and have in our home. What do you think of this? Great sight, by the way.

    Naomi Frandsen — June 3, 2005 @ 6:41pm
  22. Naomi– I believe the source you are referring to is the book Freakonomics. I don’t really buy that the presence of books makes kids smarter, but it probably encourages them to read more.
    Again, I think it’s odd to focus on books as wasteful when there are so many other things that hurt the environment as much if not more (Chevy Suburbans, anyone?). Leave my unread books alone!

    NFlanders — June 3, 2005 @ 7:12pm
  23. The only paragraph with a shred of rational thought or intellectual or personal honesty in this post is the first one, but even that paragraph isn’t entirely true because the final sentence is a lie. Separate issue, my butt.

    I’m sorry, Miranda, I have to say it. Instead of taking out your resentment on the paper industry you should probably forgive your husband for not going to law school.

    SeptimusH — June 4, 2005 @ 2:07am
  24. Miranda love I have to agree with Sep on this one. I haven’t met your husband but I already have three reasons to think he is a righteous man and you should cherish him as the valiant patriarch in your home.

    Reason the first. He didn’t fall prey to the trap of seeking after an advanced degree.

    Reason the second. The degree he didn’t fall for was law. This shows he is an astute student of the scriptures. For can you point to a single good thing the scriptures say about lawyers. Or Joseph or Brigham for that matter. No. Lawyers are always stirring up the people to wickedness, in their case its not just about worldly learning itself but using it to get gain and grind upon the faces of the poor. An unholy fornication of worldly learning and greed for luchre.

    Reason the third. A General Authority told us in the MTC and I believe him with all my heart , that the better a mission we served the prettier our wife would be. And so your husband must have served valiantly indeed. For as anyone can see that has parused your bio you are indeed a choice daughter of God. And folks as a co-blogger I got to see not just the cut out head shot on the bio but the whole picture. Talk about endowed from on high.

    So Miranda dear stand by your man, you can bet he’s a good one.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 4, 2005 @ 9:18am
  25. Aaron,

    You are a numbskull. Doesn’t mean I don’t like you, but you are a numbskull.

    Reason the first: It’s okay to have an advanced degree. Quit generalizing your personal revelation to fit everyone.

    Reason the second: A number of our current General Authorites are lawyers, you freak.

    Reason the third: I’ve seen your bio picture and you’re a real cutie, except for that thousand yard sociopathic I-just-got-out-of-prison stare. Maybe if your wife had been more obedient you wouldn’t have that deformity.

    Now go build a house.

    Sep

    SeptimusH — June 4, 2005 @ 10:07am
  26. If your bookcase is feeling a bit heavy these days, and you don’t want to contribute to your local landfill, you can contact me. A friend of mine is starting a library in his hometown in Nicaragua and needs donations.

    Books in Spanish are preferred, but English and French are welcome, as well.

    Please contact me at jth208 (at) gmail (dot) dom if you’ve got anything you’d like to contribute, and I’ll let you know where you can send them.

    Thanks!!

    Justin H — June 4, 2005 @ 10:22am
  27. Oops! Not that anyone needs the correction, but I should have written:

    jth208 (at) gmail (dot) com.

    Thanks again.

    Justin H — June 4, 2005 @ 10:23am
  28. I skipped all the other posts because there is no way on God’s green earth I’m going to stop buying books. They are my most precious possessions. God is going to come again before we run out of trees and paper. Not a problem

    annegb — June 4, 2005 @ 10:51am
  29. Okay, now I read them. I also will never give up my Charmin. Grow up Appalachian poor with outhouses and no toilet paper and you have no idea how important it becomes.

    I am a regular customer at the library, volunteer at one, and constantly have a pile of books all over the house from all three of the libraries here. I also frequent the used book store, they are so fun.

    But I will not give up my toilet paper or books. God is going to provide.

    Instead of this constant DKL bashing, why don’t you just run a separate eternal thread for people who want to attack him and then, Miranda, you could write every day of your disdain, hatred, and moral superiority?

    annegb — June 4, 2005 @ 10:59am
  30. This web site is coming to resemble a hoax, so I’ll play along. How do you like worshipping with a building full of people who each brought her own copy of the scriptures? One copy per class would be sufficient. When we read scriptures at home, each family member has his own copy. What a waste; my sons don’t even know what verse we’re at when it’s their turn to read. And then there are all those priesthood and Relief Society manuals; my wife and I each have one.

    John Mansfield — June 5, 2005 @ 8:42am
  31. John — you are dead on. Why do we need all those manuals, and papers, and copies of copies? It seems silly to me. I guess we have a real need for the physicality of the word. Or something.

    Steve Evans — June 5, 2005 @ 12:10pm
  32. annegb, I don’t have a clue about why Miranda hates me so badly, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she had a half decent reason.

    Nevertheless, Aaron, if it is because she thinks that I am the least bit like you are, then she’s sorely mistaken.

    DKL — June 5, 2005 @ 3:02pm
  33. diet coke, I admire how you’ve taught your children to love books and make them a part of their life. As far as the conditions of books, the pristine condition of most library books often comes from their never having been used. I can understand what you mean about losing books. Most libraries only charge slightly more than the purchase price for a lost book, so at worst you just end up paying for the book. Maybe library books are a good place to start teaching your children the correct way to treat books.

    foxforcefive, yes Rush Limbaugh writes books. More accurately, he has them ghost written for him. What is worse is that people actually read them.

    whatever, I side with Mari, and The Only True and Living Nathan. Libraries are not part of the left-wing conspiracy. Good librarians are open to suggestions about the books they stock. And very few books in the library have anything to do with politics at all.

    Naomi, I do not doubt the correlation between books and intellect, but book ownership must be a surrogate for other factors. If parents owning books actually made children smart, then solving the problem of generational poverty would be so much easier. We could just buy everybody a bunch of books. Maybe our fathers should go bowling together. Apart from the soccer balls, my father sounds a lot like yours. He has rooms full of books in shelves that go from floor to ceiling.

    SeptimusH, why are you attacking me for a lighthearted aside about my husband’s career? Did you have a bad nap? I don’t know how to respond. Your cocktail party psychology leaves a lot to be desired. You may as well say that I hate books because I’m jealous of other peoples’ collections. Leave my relationship with my husband out of it. I’m angry at you now. What right do you have to counsel me about my marriage?

    annegb, good for you for being such a regular library user.

    annegb, John Mansfield, Steve Evans, OK. My title is a outrageous. I wrote it in a fit of fury over the evils of unnecessary paper use. It overstates my position. But there’s an abundance of reasons why we as Mormons should use libraries more than we do, and by implication why we should buy fewer superfluous books than we do. I’m not one of those people that thinks that Gutenburg was evil. Why do you have a problem being asked to used paper and paper based products more judiciously, especially when there is valuable family time to be gained from it?

    Miranda PJ — June 5, 2005 @ 4:19pm
  34. Yeah, “whatever.” Perversity like evolution. And the round-earth “theory.”

    So are you actually trying to tell me that you know better what’s in my local library than I do? You’re telling me that I’m only imagining that I conservative books all over the local branch?

    I’m sorry that the mere existence of ideas which you don’t agree with has you in such a tizzy. I recommend an isolated cabin in Montana for a few years.

  35. Off the subject, slightly, I go to the library all the time, they have a special place for the new books.

    I’ve been thrilled to see that not very many people have checked out Jane Fonda’s book. We do have a good mix of liberal/conservative content. I don’t think she’s selling many books here.

    annegb — June 7, 2005 @ 9:46am
  36. I was going to make a snarky comment about Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Steve Covey and their “books” but decided that it would be an unwarranted threadjack.

    I’m with the Frandsen’s–I love books, grew up in a house full of them, rejoiced when I got five new books in the mail yesterday, tell my wife, “yeah, I’ll get to building that new bookcase (as soon as I finish this book”, hang out at the nearby bookstore, wherever I happen to be, mourn the passing of a good used bookshop (like the one on Ann Street in lower Manhattan that closed a decade or so ago)–the smells of dust and old leather and old paper and the dim light through windows last washed in the 1920’s and treasures, hidden treasures.

    But, I disagree that home libraries are full of books never read. My dad has probably read 95% of his thousands of books, including the whole of Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization which he got for $20 as part of a intro package from some book club. I’m guessing that I’m at about 75% of my library, and losing ground fast (five new books yesterday set me back). If I slow down the buying, maybe I’ll catch up.

    Mark B. — June 8, 2005 @ 10:51am
  37. I very seldom buy a book unless I’ve read it first.

    annegb — June 8, 2005 @ 11:32am
  38. OK, Miranda. I will now concede that you are correct, albeit for the wrong reasons. Books are terrible. I just got done doing a move where the woman had enough books to fill from floor to ceiling the largest U-Haul that you can rent–more actually; the books alone took more than one trip.

    I’m the kind of guy that frequents used book stores, and before my wife and I had children I used to go to auctions to bid on book collections. I’ve got a lot of books. But today’s experience has resulted in a radical paradigm shift. Books are bad. Get rid of them while you can.

    DKL — June 25, 2005 @ 12:22pm
  39. For those of you who worry that you don’t have enough books, take a look at this.

    The Wall Street Journal has a somewhat humorous review of the collection here.

    DKL — June 27, 2005 @ 6:09pm

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