Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 23

Audiovisual: More than Books

Posted on December 23, 2019 at 3:45 PM by Jenny Levins

The library staff was in for a surprise when we first heard some of the figures for our last fiscal year. For the first time in our library’s history we checked out more audiovisual materials than we did books.

That’s right. We checked out 354,979 of our audiovisual items and 343,861 books. We are still trying to decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.  

Today’s library is more than just some sort of book warehouse for the public and our library offers more than just books for our patrons. We check out videos, DVD’s, CD’s, and audio books.  We have computers set up for the public to use for typing Word or Excel documents along with providing access to the Internet.  

The library offers both children’s and adult programming in our auditorium along with an out of library Outreach Program for children and young adults.  The bookmobile brings the library to people all over the county.  We also have a branch library in Harmony and an Internet site at

Despite all the things we offer though our books have always been our bread and butter.  Most of our library staff and patrons will tell you that they grew up as library users and avid readers.

It’s important to keep things in perspective when looking at numbers.  Just because we checked out more audiovisual materials this year than books does not mean that books are losing their importance.  

Our staff and our patrons place a lot of importance on books.  We often have people come to the library with boxes of books to donate. They will explain that they were cleaning house and needed to get rid of these books, but just couldn’t stand the thought of throwing them away or seeing them destroyed. 

As someone who has bookshelves in his garage I know exactly how they feel so it might be good to look at just what a book is and why one can mean so much to us.  

One definition of a book I found in Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary described a book as “a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together into a volume.” 

In our World Book encyclopedias, I leaned that there is evidence that books were written in Egypt as early as 2700 B.C.  They were written on papyrus a form of paper made from a plant that grows along the Nile River.  The word paper comes from the word papyrus.  The papyrus was made into long rolls called scrolls.  

The problem with scrolls was that you had to unroll the whole scroll to find the section you might want to read.  Imagine having to do that every time you wanted to find the chapter you left off reading the night before.  This would have been pre-bookmark days too. 

Gradually papyrus was replaced by parchment, which is a specially treated animal skin.  The advancement into what we would recognize as a book today was made during the first 300 years after the birth of Jesus Christ.

Early Christians began cutting the pieces of papyrus and parchment and sewing them together on one side.  They then bound the pages with thin pieces of wood or soft membrane. This early form of book was called a codex and it remains the major form of the book today.

Perhaps this information tells us leads us to where the tradition of holding books in such high regard began and why they still mean so much to us today.  The book these early Christians were making were the first early Bibles.  Many people today will tell you that their Bible is their most precious possession.  

Family Bibles are handed down from generation to generation and often contain a genealogy of the family itself inside the cover.  I have seen people pull these old family Bibles out with great care and reference to show me the dates of births and deaths of their ancestors.  

The printing press paved the way for mass production of books, but for many years they were still rare and expensive.  The only book our pioneer forefathers had to read in their homes for many years was the Bible.  Schools gave more people the ability to read and while books were few a universal truth was beginning to develop.

The truth is once you learn to read a little you will naturally want to read more and once you have read one book you begin looking for another as soon as you lay the first one down.

This desire to read and to have more books is what leads to the creation of the public library in the first place.  Almost all public libraries began with people who loved to read donating and purchasing books to place in a central location where they could be borrowed and read and shared with others.  

Books are still important today, as are libraries.  Even now the people in Troutman have begun working towards the creation of a branch library in their community.  It may take some time, but the desire is there and so is the belief that books still matter to us and to our communities.  

They also matter to us here at the Iredell County Public Library.  DVD’s and the other technologies are popular, but we know it is the common yet noble book that remains one of the greatest inventions of humanity. 

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Books are still the most important part of the Iredell library” on Dec. 29, 2004



Tag(s): audio