The Word

Barney Zwartz on how much he loves libraries, books, and words - and how they point him to an even greater Word.

I love books. I have a lot of them but, unfortunately, so does my wife who resists, as I do, the suggestion that the other should make a major cull. So they overflowed the shelves long ago, and sit in piles on the desk, in corners, and any other space, convenient or otherwise.

That’s one reason why I really love my local library. It’s part of a large network, through which I can search and reserve books online, so I visit it at least once a week for much of my escapist or pleasure reading. Often when I’m there something else is happening – book readings for kids, people using the bank of public computers, author talks, help with subjects from taxes to gardens to technical support. It’s a highly valued community hub which is all the more important in these days of atomised relationships.

A critic once noted his test of a moderately good book was whether it tempted him to neglect his work; his test of a really good book was whether it tempted him to neglect all his other pleasures.

The library certainly tempts me. It is a treasure trove of words, which at one level is obvious but at another is easily underestimated. Words are the building blocks of civilisation; without words one can scarcely think, and the wider our vocabulary the better equipped we are to reason.

The Bible tells us that words are important to God and that in fact he created by means of the Word (“By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made”). The famous opening verse of John’s Gospel says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

As a repository for words, libraries are invaluable and must be cherished.