With our Netflixes and Kindles, we don’t think twice anymore about zapping a movie, book or song into our homes with the tap of a fingertip. Media have become as ephemeral as the pollen from a poplar tree, and we can watch a scene from our favorite TV show almost as quickly as we can think of it.
So in this digital landscape, what on earth are all those people young and old still doing in libraries on any given afternoon?
Our love of physical place is a big part of the draw, even as online worlds demand more of our attention. As long as we live in flesh-and-blood bodies, we will still want to go somewhere to sit and think and watch other people live out their minutes. Likewise, we still prefer reading books printed in real ink on real paper pages; for the past few years, the market share of e-readers in the publishing world has leveled off to about 20 percent.
Another bonus: Libraries don’t care where you come from. That means a Sacramento resident can sign up for a library card in Oakland or San Francisco or Los Angeles and check out any of the books, CDs and DVDs there. So if the local library doesn’t have that Elena Ferrante or Michael Crichton book on your list, you can get in line, virtually, at a library in Fairfield or Reno and pick it up when you’re in town.
Most libraries offer a fine collection of books and movies, but a few specialize. The Berkeley Public Library (2090 Kitteridge St., 510-981-6100), for example, sports a prolific selection of jazz CDs, a fitting bounty given nearby Berkeley High School’s world-class jazz program.
Other libraries impress with their history. The Woodland Public Library (250 First St., 530-661-5980) was one of more than 1,600 libraries built around the turn of the 20th century with funding from industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival building, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, still functions as an operating library.
Older libraries also often offer echoing, wood-paneled reading rooms, where a visitor can study for a final or just peruse the newspaper (print or online). One of the most impressive in Northern California is the gleaming white, arch-ceilinged Doe Library North Reading Room on the UC Berkeley campus. Many a Cal student has spent hours at one of the long tables there, with sunlight flooding in through the windows.
For a more intimate place to hide out with a book, visitors can also try the Morrison Library on the ground floor of the Doe Library with its plush chairs and heavy wood tables.
Add the programs of author appearances, children’s storytime and other literary events that run in most libraries, and there’s enough to keep everyone busy.
What: Bagpipes, dancing and tasty food are on offer at Murphys Irish Day. Guests can win a trip to Ireland.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Where: Main Street, Murphys
What: Premium chocolates of all shapes and sizes can be found under one roof at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon.
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Where: Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St., San Francisco
Cost: $10 to $30
What: The Fort Bragg Whale Festival offers chowder and beer tastings, along with whale watching from the Coast Trail along the Pacific Ocean.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19
Where: Chowder and beer tasting will be at Town Hall, 363 N. Main St., Fort Bragg
Cost: $10 to $40