The other day I was at a friend’s house and we began talking about books. I have several thousand books on various occult topics. Some are very old. Others are quite new. My friend and I both knew of people who had well over ten thousand books, although most were fiction, especially fantasy or science fiction.
I started wondering about why people keep large quantities of books. For me, it is so I can do research. Why people keep vast quantities of fiction, since I don’t do that, I can’t say.
But when you go into someone’s home and there are shelves that make the place look like a bookstore or library it’s, I don’t know, impressive? weird? It certainly tells you a great deal about the person. It tells you they like to read and their interests. For example, if a person has a lot of history books, you know they like history. A person with shelves of books by Barbara Cartland is probably different from a person with shelves of books by Isaac Asimov.
But still, why keep carloads of books?
For me, part of it may be my upbringing. My mother used to sit me on her knee and taught me phonics and reading before I was four. She would take me to the public library and I would marvel at the rows and rows of books. That library, in the little town of Mar Vista, the suburb of Los Angeles where I grew up, moved its physical location two times before I entered high school. Now, it’s still in it’s final location on Venice Boulevard, about a third of a mile from where I lived (on Stoner Ave. Really!). Even when I was very young I would bring home a bag full of books, read them, and go back for another load.
The Mar Vista library was better than my grammar school, junior high school, or high school libraries. It had a wider selection of books and much better hours, too. But when I attended UCLA, I abandoned the local library. The UCLA libraries were astoundingly enormous. Some universities don’t let you wander the “stacks.” Rather, you select the books you want through the use of their filing system and someone gets them for you. In some instances, instead of people, machines actually find the books and bring them to the area where you can collect them. It’s amazing.
With my occult interests, however, the libraries didn’t always have what I wanted. So I started my own library. I sometimes refer to my home as a “library with a bed” rather than a house with books.
Many years later, I returned to school, attending cross-town rival USC. They have wonderful libraries there, too. I spent hours wandering the shelves and looking at books I hadn’t even known existed.
You may wonder why, in this age of tablets and book readers, where tens of thousands of books can be accessed using a device smaller than just one book, why anyone would use a library, even a big one. First, there is the joy of discovery of books previously unknown to you. Second, not all books have been digitized. Third is something I only discovered when I was at the library at USC, a magickal tool only available due to modern technology known as interlibrary loan.
There was a book I had been seeking for well over five years. It never appeared on any of the many websites offering used books for sale that I frequent. It simply wasn’t available at any price. On a whim, I looked for it in the USC library’s digital catalog. There it was! It was listed and I could check it out! I was almost trembling with excitement. I took the information to the counter only to learn they didn’t actually have it. It was at a library in Arizona.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “that’s only a couple of days of driving. I could get there.” To my surprise, the librarian told me they could have it delivered to the desk right there in just a few days. The cost: nothing. A few days later I was actually looking through its pages. Bliss!
Eventually I left USC and moved to a small area northeast of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. There were two public libraries nearby, and I went into one of them. It was smaller than public library near where I grew up.
But they had a digital book catalog and were part of the interlibrary loan system. I obtained a rare occult book from a library on the East Coast. The charge for getting a book that was unavailable anywhere else was just a couple of dollars. It was an incredible bargain.
Yes, Public Libraries!
In this day of digital everything, the concept of public libraries seems quaint, a product of a time before cheap paperback books and .pdfs and Kindles and Nooks. I’m not putting electronic devices down as they are very valuable. I read books on my computer, my Kindle, and my smartphone. But I think it’s time to rediscover libraries. They are still valuable research tools. Online resources have immense value, but so do modern libraries.
In many of the workshops I present I stray from my main topic for a moment and encourage people to buy at their local occult shop. It’s good for the local occult community and it supports your local area as a whole.
To that I want to add that you should consider going back and using your local library. Public libraries and university libraries are often free to use or have very small fees. With the interlibrary loan system you can obtain books that you never dreamed you would see.
Getting More Occult Books Into Your Library
If your local library doesn’t have a book, request that the librarian order it. Usually, most libraries have a budget that allows the librarian to choose books to order. Requesting books will encourage them to order them. The more requests they get the more likely they are to make the purchase.
Now, one bit of bad news. I had purchased some of my own books with an intent of giving them to local libraries so they’d have my books on the shelves. To my surprise, I learned that when you give a book to a library they generally do not add it to their collection. Instead, they make it available at book sales to raise funds for the library. As you may guess, I’m in favor of libraries receiving more funds. A good way to add to your local library’s funding is by giving them books you no longer want or need to own. In this instance, giving them my books so they could resell them at a huge discount was not my intent. It was, however, their practice.
If you have a book you like and want the library to have a copy or two for their shelves so others can read it, don’t buy some copies of the book and donate them to the library. They generally won’t shelve it or add it to their system. Instead, make requests of the librarian to obtain the book. Have your friends do the same. The more requests they get the more likely they are to obtain the books. On the other hand, do consider donating books to the library with the understanding that they will sell the books to raise funds for operating expenses, salaries, and the purchase of other books.
Libraries are there for all of us to use. I believe they deserve our support.
Libraries are great for sharing information. When I first became involved with occultism and magick, the way occultists, Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans communicated with through what we now call snail mail. Some people and groups even set up newsletters that were mimeographed (ahhh, that smell) or photocopied and then the pages were left loose or stapled together. Later, communication advanced to electronic bulletin board systems or BBSes. Ah, the joy of trying to communicate over 300 baud modems with BBSes that only allowed 4 people on at a time.
Well, times have changed, and now many groups are communicating with others over the internet. However one person, Jason Pitzi-Waters, has made it a point to present information about many different groups, books, events, music and more. If you’re not reading his blog, The Wild Hunt, you should be. It’s one of the most read and most valuable blogs for Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, magicians, and occultists of all traditions.
As with most blogs, The Wild Hunt is free to read. However, they have lots of expenses and a minimal budget. Therefore, if you can, I would urge you to make a donation to their Fall Funding Drive. They’re asking for as little as five bucks, and that’s a small amount for all of the information, news, and commentary you’ll receive.
If you’re not reading The Wild Hunt, I hope you start to do so. And if you can make a donation to keep them running, it will benefit the entire occult community.
Do you live in Los Angeles?
Come to the Last 2 Days of Llewellyn Week at
Mystic Journey Bookstore!
1624 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Celebrate the last two days of Llewellyn Week at Mystic Journey Bookstore, the favorite metaphysical bookstore on the Westside of Los Angeles. Tess Whitehurst, author of Magical Fashionista, was here on Wednesday and Lon Milo DuQuette, author of Low Magick, was here last night. You can hear and talk with Karen Page tonight. Karen is a renowned professional psychic with more than forty years of experience. Her U.S. and international clients include heads of state, CEOs of major corporations, celebrities, law-enforcement professionals, individuals, couples, and families. Regularly featured on national radio and TV programs, with guest appearances on numerous daytime television shows, Karen has hosted syndicated radio programs broadcast across the country. Tonight she’ll be talking about her new book, My Life Across the Table, which includes the most inspiring, uplifting, and unforgettable stories from her extraordinary career.
Tomorrow night I’ll be giving a talk on my book, Modern Magick, how it came to be, what’s in it, how to use it, how it’s evolved, and more. Of course, both Karen and I will be more than happy to sign our books for you. Here is the remaining schedule:
• 10/25, Friday, Karen Page – My Life Across the Table 7-9pm
• 10/26, Saturday, Donald Michael Kraig – Modern Magick 7-9 pm
I’m planning on being there both nights! I hope to see you there, too!