These days hearing about a book store closing (another one, Serendipity Books in Berkeley, is gone as of early this month) has become near-commonplace news. This past summer, mega-bookstore Borders announced that it was closing its doors forever and immediately began to liquidate its stock and shut the doors of stores throughout the country.
But, as GOOD magazine reports, there is, amazingly, a bit of silver lining to the end of Borders. Hilco Trading LLC, the company managing its liquidation, has bought over $130,000 of “academic quality” books and is donating them to the Chicago Public School system. Over 8,000 books — science, math, poetry, travel, hobbies, Chicago history, business, computers, careers, politics, law and more — will find their way to Chicago public school students.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recognized the company for its donation, says Business Wire. Said Jeff Hecktman, the company’s CEO:
“Our company has enjoyed great success over the years, largely due to the incredibly intelligent people who manage it. We believe that education, above all other factors, is the foundation of commercial success and so we have decided to do what we can to help ensure American children receive the best education possible. The book donation was only our first step in a continuing commitment to align our corporate resources with the needs of public education.”
While it would have been preferable for Borders to have somehow stayed open — the stores were valued not only for the books they sold but, thanks to their cafés and large spaces, served as de facto meeting places for readers of all ages — it’s good to think that some of all those millions of books once owned by Borders will be going to students.
Even in an e-reader age, the thought of throwing away books still smacks of the sacrilegious. It arouses haunting images of books being burned for the powerful ideas contained in them and of so-called “barbarians at the gate.” At a university I used to teach at, someone once left a box of old books in the hallway with a sign above them that said “Garbage.” One of my colleagues — an English professor whose office was indeed lined in books, dusty and yellowing and pages curling — hurriedly took down the sign and replaced it with another that said “Free.”
It’s a lesson powerfully taught to us again and again by books themselves: Just one word can make a cosmic difference.
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