History of Book: Reference Librarian Interview

Lillian Books Picture May 2013

My fourth quarter assignment for school is to choose a topic and interview someone regarding that topic. I chose the topic of books because I am curious about books.

My mother, Camilla, gave me a couple of suggestions for who to interview. She suggested a local librarian where we visit every two weeks or a librarian friend she had gone to Jr. High School with and who lives in Tennessee. I chose Camilla’s friend, Lillie Salsberry, because I wasn’t very good at talking to our librarian here in Reno.

Camilla also suggested that I look at an interview of herself by Special Needs Book Review to get an idea of how to format my interview. She also helped me with these opening paragraphs.

Lillian: When were books “born”?

Lillie Salsberry: Around 3500 BCE Sumerians made clay tablets with cuneiform writing on them. Around 2500 BCE the Chinese were using animal skins, bones, and bamboo wood to record their writings., and at the same time, Egyptians were using papyrus to document writing. The oldest papyrus scroll dates to 2400BCE. They were rolled up scrolls. Asians were using wood block printing for the collections as far back as 700 BCE, but the first book in Western culture, that looked like a book, a codex, came into being between 100 BCE and 100 CE. The codex is like our books, covers on the outside, paper (or skins) on the inside, held together. No more tablets or scrolls or wood. Paper was invented in China, and then the Romans also began using paper for books. Books still had to be handwritten until the 1400s when the German man, Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. This machine made the books instead of them having to be written out by hand. It was like a copy machine. Now books could be made by the thousands, and thousands of people who had never had a book, could now own a book and read.

Lillian: How did mystery books get popular? 

Lillie Salsberry:Mystery books really became a popular genre with Edgar Allen Poe published Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841. Other English writers had written about suspense and contained spooky qualities, but Poe really made the first modern mystery. After him, some famous British writers like Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins published some mystery novels. Then came Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great mysteries with Sherlock Holmes. In the 1920s, mysteries REALLY became popular. That’s when Agatha Christie began publishing, and then Ellery Queen, and also when the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books came out, so that kids could also enjoy a good mystery. Now mysteries are one of the most popular types of books for adults and children.

Lillian: Why did people make books?

Lillie Salsberry: Many of the first ‘books’ were stone tablets that contained accounting and business records. They were invented for rulers to keep track of taxes and money and business and people. The Egyptians later used their papyrus scrolls to record the history of the pharaohs and finally some stories and history. The Chinese also used ‘books’ to record accounting and the Emperors histories. Finally the Greeks and Romans used their parchment or vellum in a codex, or book, so that they could easily put together several scrolls and it was easier to read them all together and easier to store them that way, in a true book form. People have always wanted to keep track of all that they do, their business, their money, their history, their religions, and they needed books to have a written record instead of just story telling

Lillian: Where did people first invented books?

Lillie Salsberry: It’s hard to say who invented the book. The Sumerians were some of the first people we know of to write on tablets and keep the tablets together. About the same time in China, they were writing on silk. The Egyptians used papyrus scrolls for writing and books, but I would say the Romans were the first to use parchment for writing and bind them all together in a codex, what would later be called a book, and what we think of as a real book.

Lillian: Why do people read? 

Lillie Salsberry: People read for SO many reasons. For fun, for pleasure, for learning how to do things, for news and information, for learning history and science, for cooking, for getting smarter, for school, and many times just for escape, for traveling to new worlds, old worlds, new times, old times, for fun and escape. Think about why you read and add that to the answer

Lillian: Do you know the percentage of illustrated vs non-illustrated books?

Lillie Salsberry: Not sure if your local library has e reference, if you wanted to try that for some of the percentage questions. They might have better references or call, but e reference is kinda cool.

Lillian: Do you know the percentage of people who like to read books?

Lillie Salsberry: Not sure if your local library has e reference, if you wanted to try that for some of the percentage questions. They might have better references or call, but e reference is kinda cool.

Lillian: Why are people reading kindness books?

Lillie Salsberry: people also read for self exploration and self discovery. I think that is why people read kindness books. People want to be kind, and it helps to ‘see’ kindness in a book. It helps us understand why it is so important to be kind to others, and books can guide us to a deeper understand and also give us real examples of HOW to be kind to others, WHY to be kind to others. We can see and read about other people and the results of kindness, just how kindness affects others and ourselves. Reading a book just makes it all more real.

Lillian: Why do some people write their autobiographies right before death?

Lillie Salsberry: People write autobiographies for many reasons. They want to share their own personal stories and life with their loved ones, they want to remember and explore their own past, discover new things about themselves, and share their knowledge and life experiences. Many people wait to write these stories until they are older, when they have more stories to share, but also more motivation, because they may realize that time is flying, that life is short and could change any time, and that they need to hurry and get their stories told. Many people just don’t realize that until they are older. Sometimes they are told of a medical condition that may shorten their lives, so they decide to then write their autobiography. It can be a big motivator to know that life passes quickly, and one needs to get those stories out. But many wait until they have lots of stories, and that is often when they are old and before they die.

Lillian: Why do some people have book apps?

Lillie Salsberry: since ebooks are becoming more popular, book apps are a great way to have access to the ebooks. My daughter, Abby, uses an ipad at school, and her school has a book app so that she can download children’s books to that app and read them on the ipad and the whole class is reading the same book at the same time on their devices. That is helping to not have to buy multiple copies of a book and make sure that every student has each book. Book apps make it easier to download ebooks and purchase them

One thing I’ll add about ebooks, is that even though I enjoy using my ereader, and actually enjoy reading books straight off the computer, I haven’t found that it is cheaper or more affordable to buy ebooks. In fact, in many, many cases, I can get a used paper book more cheaply than an ebook. I am hoping they become affordable.

Lillian: Why do some people make ebooks?

Lillie Salsberry: I will first answer the question about ebooks and then apps: Over history books have taken various forms and gone through changes, from clay tablets, to skin, to scrolls, to silk, to parchment paper, regular paper, and now….no paper, but electronic text. Now it is so easy and wonderful to have access to books and literature from one’s computer or ereader. What is the benefit of ebooks and why would we want them ? Portability, ease of use, and access are some of the top reasons! Books can be big and bulky, and now one can put hundreds of books on an ereader than is light and travels easily. Accessibilty by all who have a computer is a wonderful gift. Just like Gutenburg made books accessible to every day people like you and me, ebooks can do that too. So many books are on any computer. There’s a site called Gutenberg.org that has thousands of digital ebooks for anyone who wants them at any time. I really think it’ s the ease of carrying one e reader or computer instead of 50 books that make e books such a good option. However, I have many, MANY friends who only want the feel of a good old fashioned book in their hands. They love to turn the pages and hold the book, and that is WONDERFUL too. I think no matter how one reads, reading is wonderful. One drawback I do find and see for ebooks is that it may be harder to see and appreciate all of the beautiful illustrations and artwork in so many books. In that regard, ebooks may be better for non-illustrated books. To take in and see all of the beautiful artwork should not be missed.

Lillian: Do you know the percentage of people who read nonfiction books vs fiction books?

Lillie Salsberry: Not sure if your local library has e reference, if you wanted to try that for some of the percentage questions. They might have better references or call, but e reference is kinda cool.

Lillian: Why are some books so old?

Lillie Salsberry: I think some books are so old because they are so good and have staying power. The good books last a long, long time. Some people collect old books and seek them out. Some old books tho are too old and must be discarded. Many old books end up in museums, and people want to see them to see just how special they are.