The disappearance of personal libraries

Photo: Pedro Ruiz The Duty
The reader could previously find it necessary to make provision for future readings, knowing that such and such a title is not so easy to find, and that it was better to catch it when he passed.

Was a time, not so distant, where the book was the man. The libraries were symbols of culture, of good taste and intelligence in the homes as in offices. For the past few years, however, the personal libraries are becoming more and more rare. And their shelves are home to as many green plants, travel souvenirs and knick-knacks than books. First a look at five time on the mutations of the book and the reader.

In the residences, the offices of a notary, a lawyer or a doctor, and even in the catalogues of popular furniture stores, the personal libraries gradually disappear. “It’s much more rare that people ask us about libraries in their home “, confirms the co-founder of the architecture firm, The Shed, Sébastien Parent.


His comments join those of the builders of luxurious houses surveyed earlier this year by The Press, who found that the demand for parts that reads closed is scarce.


The causes are multiple. The available statistics on the sales of digital books in Quebec suggests that it is not a simple transfer from paper to pixels, because it still sells much, much less than digital books.


Why guard there now fewer books to themselves, then ? The books are now infinitely more available than they were even 20 years ago. Previously, the player could find it necessary to make provision for future readings, knowing that such and such a title is not so easy to find, and that it was better to catch it when he passed. A first turn-off was initiated as early as 1968, recalls the historian Yvan Lamonde, with the creation of the legal deposit, which obliges any publisher to provide two copies of each publication to the national collection. In the worst case, we know that we will always be able to find a copy of the books in the quebec Library and national Archives of Quebec.


And in the last decades, came the flowering of public libraries, the development of communication (which mean that the booksellers can now cover an infinitely wider in their search for titles and special orders for customers), and especially small revolutions, that of online commerce, which allows you to receive, sometimes in 48 hours at his door, a book, and that of the digital books, available at the end of a click.


Why keep it, then, when you know that you will be able to easily find and retrieve it ?


As well as, in the houses, it “enhances now the space rather than fill it,” says the architect Sébastien Parent. “Traditionally, households had a large set of dining room with ten chairs ; a dresser ; a set of room dressers. “We just now six chairs, hardly more than the family needs. And if the library is ” an architectural element of interesting to draw, which adds texture to the project without superfluous, because it has a function “, it is no longer the sign also undeniable culture that it has already been.


Club Culture and classical culture


“Still an old vision that the book is the guarantor of a certain socio-cultural status “, reflects at the end of the wire René Audet, director of the interuniversity research Centre on literature and culture in quebec. “I have in my head of these huge libraries, windows, street, Braves, Sainte-Foy, where we do not know if they are real books or small boxes. “


“Library facade “, whatever, and some booksellers of experience is reminiscent of the commands of the Pléiade made ” by the meter “, to cover of the rays without regard for titles, authors or texts. Books trophies. Books appearance.


“It already demonstrates an understanding of the code, smiles Mr. Audet, if you order of the Pléiade and not pocket books. We know the value of the collection. “


The specialist literature and culture digital reminds us that the arrival of paperback books in the 1950s, which had ” provoked a public outcry, thinking that we désacralisait the book “, established a first voltage between the book-object of knowledge and culture, and the object of consumption replaceable, ” read-discard “. Tension that persists today, and which influence the choice of the player to keep or not a book. Voltage which can also be replaced by a ” read pay “, a trend for neo-vintage.


“The person who has read and loved a book, and who decides voluntarily to leave it in the subway or in one of these cute little libraries in the street, which have pushed everywhere are still in the bargain book. There is an exchange, a communication, that is in the same spectrum of socialization of the book that the reading circles, and, in another era, the work of annotation, ” says Mr. Audet.


These reading clubs return to also in popularity, and reviews, ” people gather around a reading of this core value. His share is in reinvention in social environments that will give a place and new ways ; that the public libraries, and the library’s third location are in the process may be re-engaged otherwise, ” believes the expert.


The era of sharing (well, sharing)


René Audet is the parallel with ” the speech is very common to say that today no one reads, that the digital culture is that everything is in the immediacy, so that lots of studies show that we have never read — although it doesn’t read the same thing or with the same density, the same intensity, the same length.


“There is a certain displacement, interesting, the role that is attributed and this image of the book, which is not so central, that is no longer a guarantor of culture, even if it is seen to reposition itself, it seems to me. “Today, knowledge of authors and classical texts is no longer the staple crop that made it shine in society.


Going away from his field of expertise, Mr. Audet risk a hypothesis. This would be the ease to move between different cultures and sub-cultures — including the pop, the underground, related to the ability to master technologies, new platforms of communication and the art of sharing his ideas, which would make the literate of the Twenty-first century. And for that, no need for a library — not even digital.


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Collectors or bibliomanes ?

Word of the booksellers, if we exclude the readers “professionals” that are the teachers, academics and publishers, the owners of today’s large and vast personal libraries are often collectors. A bit monomaniacal, they are looking for hyperspécifique, the missing, the disappeared : Alice in wonderland (the collector Luc Gauvreau has a few thousands of versions…), the books marked with an ex-libris, comics, books written by politicians, those of the counter-culture, etc, The rarity of their interest is the preciousness of their collection… and makes the result that, paradoxically, even more difficult to bequeath.


“We wander between the shelves without the end of books, choosing this one or that one for reasons difficult to explain : because of the cover, the title, a name, of such a has said or has not said, a hunch, a whim, a mistake, because we think we find in this book such a story, such a character or such a detail individuals, because we believe that it was written for us, because it was written for everyone except us and we want to know the reason of this exclusion, because we want to learn, smile, or forget it. “

Excerpt from The library of Robinson, Alberto Manguel