In Gifu City there is a library. This library has recently been renovated, designed by a famous architect and envisioned to be more than just a space to read and borrow books, but also a meeting place, an event venue, and an area that all members of the community can enjoy. Sounds nice, right?
In hopes of promoting this new library, the city has planned a book dominoes event with which they want to set a new world record for the longest chain of books to be toppled. As fun as it sounds, the city is receiving some heavy criticism over the event and for their alleged general disrespect of books.
▼ Looks pretty fabulous for a library!
Gifu City’s new library looks pretty awesome, as one would expect it to after being designed by famous Japanese conceptual architect Toyo Ito and costing the city more than a few yennies. Although it is not open yet, it looks beautiful and we wouldn’t be surprised if people would flock to it without the need for any kind of opening ceremony or event. But hey, grand openings are fun, right?
▼ We could definitely work here.
To get the city’s people interested in the library, show it off as more than just a book space and promote the idea of making Gifu a “book city,” a committee of citizens – all unassociated with the library (but supported by the city Board of Education) – have planned an event for July 12, 2015. The event is called “Minna no mori (Everyone’s forest) Gifu Media Cosmos,” and the highlight event is the book dominoes show, during which 10,000 donated used books will be set up and toppled in one really long domino chain.
▼ If you’re around Gifu, you could even attend!
The event planners got the idea from a few other libraries that did the same thing in the past. It all started with the city of Seattle’s Central Library in 2013, when organizers successful knocked over a chain of 2,131 books. Libraries in both Belgium and the UK followed suit, pushing the world record up to 5,318 books. Gifu City plans to blow that record out of the water with their 10,000 book goal.
▼ Watch the Seattle event unfold!
Not everyone in Gifu is so keen on the book dominoes event, however. In fact, many people are pretty angry about it. Their main concern is that the library and organizers are disrespecting the authors and the books themselves by using them as toys.
One of the most outspoken opponents of the event, the head of an NPO book cafe, Takayuki Kitamura, wrote in an entry to his blog:
“When I first saw this, it made me feel really bad. I also want to form a ‘book city,’ but we have to pay respect to the books and the authors of those books in order to do that. As a kid, I was taught never to mishandle books. By mishandling the books, we’re mishandling the minds of the people who wrote them.”
Apparently quite a few other people agree with him, writing on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter:
“The publishers and authors did not create the books for this kind of use. We have to question a library that allows this kind of thing.”
“If one of my old books is in there, please don’t use it. And don’t do such stupid things.”
“Books are not toys to be used as dominoes. Gifu City government should be ashamed.”
“Books are for reading, not for playing.”
▼ The books used probably won’t be this old.
One very interesting and telling comment stated that “Japanese people hold books in high regard, almost as sacred.” It’s true that some Japanese children are taught to respect books and not mistreat them in any way, even tossing them haphazardly on the table or writing on them is out of the question. Maybe it’s this upbringing that makes them see the events in Seattle and the other libraries as nothing short of appalling, while others see it as just a bit of fun.
It’s worth noting, however, that these books won’t just be used for play. Again, taking note from their predecessors, the Gifu library plans on taking the books used in the event and reselling them in the used book store, where all proceeds will go to supporting the library. Other countries have also donated the books to school children.
▼ 10,000 books would make a lot of money and a lot of readers happy.
In defense of the event, the head of the library announced his support for the event, and many other members of the Japanese public are just as supportive:
“When thinking of books, everyone has their own opinion. For me, I think this is a great event and am rooting for it to go on. I bet it would be a great success!”
“With the increase of digital books, this is a good way to reinforce interest in regular books.”
“The library is just saying ‘Hey everyone, let’s read more books!’ It’s a pretty simple thing to get upset over.”
“I love books, but still, I don’t think this really a terrible idea.”
“It’s not like books are people, they’re just printed paper. Why is using them as dominoes suddenly considered ‘roughing up’?”
Again, more interesting points. Does carefully standing up some books and then knocking them over a couple of times really damage the book that much? It will still be perfectly readable, and in fact maybe more people would become interested in reading the books used if they knew that they was part of a Guinness World Record. The event could, in a way, bring new life to these old books.
This is a pretty hot issue in Gifu and with Japanese Netizens right now, but what do you think? Is the event disrespecting the books and their authors or is it just a fun way to bring attention back to books and libraries? Let us know in the comments section below!