There are over 15 million volumes in the library at Harvard University, making it the largest college library. There are nearly 6 million volumes at my institution. On the shelves of these libraries are books by philosophers, professors, doctors, poets, historians, presidents, women, and men. Whenever I find myself walking through the stacks I’m usually browsing the shelves in search of a book for my class. In the process, I pass countless titles that I will most likely never pick up.
College is the only time that most people have the access to so many books. It’s a bookworm’s dream. The libraries are free, many of them open 24/7 (or at least very late), and cover every topic under the sun. Common sense would say “go to the library, read the books, learn as much as you can about everything you can.” If only this was so simple. I would love to be able to lose myself in the many scholarly works that adorn the shelves in my school’s libraries, but the truth is time will not allow it. Throughout the four to five years that a student spends in college, he/she will never read even one percent of the books available. Amid schoolwork, test preparation, and textbooks, there’s not enough time to read anything else. What good is this access when you don’t have the time to use it? I often walk through the library wondering what books are there and how much I could learn if only I could read some of those books instead of the books I’m reading for class.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it’s important to read the required texts for your class and that there is much to gain from them. I’m only pointing out the irony in going to college where professors and parents and mentors urge students to take advantage of their opportunity and study everything accessible to them, only to assign them work that allows them the time to do anything but explore the shelves. It would be great if we had a week or two to read as many books as we could. Of course, a lot of people wouldn’t use that time to read. Perhaps that’s why we have breaks and vacations: so we can go home and crack open a book. There is always a way around a possible dilemma, and using my vacation better could be the answer to this one.
Still, I can’t help but dream about the many books I may never be able to read, sitting just yards away from my dorm room. It would break my heart to graduate from this university having never read anything but the books and articles assigned to me on a syllabus. In many ways this represents the great amount of knowledge that exists in the world, knowledge I will never begin to touch in my lifetime. There will always be things I don’t know, and I will always want to learn more. As long as the thirst for knowledge remains great, one will never truly be satisfied.
Let me know what you think about this bookish dilemma. What things do you wonder about and wish you had the time to study?