Books and Reading

April 5th, 2019

By Karen Osburn, City of Geneva Historian

I visited the Hobart and William Smith College Store the other day because they were having a terrific sale on books and some other items.  As I browsed the shelves looking for books to give as gifts I thought about the large number of bookstores we had several decades ago.  I really miss the “brick and mortar” bookstores.  Don’t get me wrong, I own a Kindle Paper White and I have a LOT of books in electronic format, but when I don’t know what I want to read next there is nothing like wandering up and down the aisles of a book store (or the Geneva Public Library ) and seeing what new books are available.  I have made many more wonderful discoveries perusing bookshelves than I ever have browsing e-books on-line.

I believe in reading. Books are a great way to travel without leaving your chair.  Books let you participate in historic events, horrific events, heroic events and imaginary events.  Your imagination can let you be a wizard, a doctor, a detective, a time traveler, a jokey, a banker, a pet shop owner, a rich person or a poor person; the possibilities are endless when you are reading.

multi story church

Universalist Church (now the Geneva Public Library)

Geneva had several places to browse books over the years. There were Bogart’s bookstore and printing shop, which opened in 1809 and moved several times before 1816; G.B. Morgan who opened a bookstore and reading room in 1825 but closed it the next year; and J. Smith, who opened the “Geneva Cheap Bookstore” in 1825.  In more recent years there were Klopher’s books and stationary, J. W. Smith Dry Goods, which lent and sold books; and while not a bookstore, no list of places providing books in our city would be complete without the Geneva Free Library (now Geneva Public Library) which was chartered by the NYS Board of Regents in June of 1905.  This is not a comprehensive list by any means, it is just meant to show Geneva was and is a reading city.

Today you can buy books at Wal-Mart, B.J. ‘s Wholesale store, Wegman’s, Stomping Grounds , Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge, and several gift shops as well as the HWS College Store.  Geneva Reads provides free books for children and also sponsors an event encouraging everyone in the city to read the same book and discuss it.   We have literacy volunteers in Geneva helping people to be proficient at reading. Yet, there are still homes in Geneva that do not have book shelves filled with books, and do not subscribe to magazines or newspapers.  When children do not see the adults in their lives read regularly why should reading appeal to them?

I grew up in a home where both my parents did not graduate from high school, yet they were both voracious readers.  We had newspapers, magazines, and books all over our house.  We visited our public library, even though it was several miles away. My grade school, middle school (we called them junior high school then) and high school all had libraries and librarians.  My grade school teachers read to us and let us borrow their personal children’s books.  When it was time to make out my list for “Santa” I asked for books.  Books and reading were the foundation of my education and I have always felt you can learn anything if you are able to read well.

Today I am often frustrated when I research a topic on-line and am provided with a video to instead of an article to read.  Many of the videos provide a minimum of substance buried in a lot of images.  (You Tube’s “how to do it” videos are the exception) I feel frustrated I can’t read the material at my own pace instead of having information geared toward a person who learns either faster or slower than I.

This blog is a blatant plea to read books, newspapers, or magazines in print or electronic format.  A world awaits your discovery in print.  There is the book sale at the Geneva Public Library  and the sale still continues at the College’s bookstore.  Do yourself a favor and stop in to browse the books.  You never know what you might find!

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