WTF Fun Fact 13230 – NYPL Gave Away Books

The New York Public Library gave away books in the summer of 2022 – half a million books, to be exact.

The New York Public Library gave away half a million books

According to the NYPL website (cited below), branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island gave away books starting June 9, 2022. The goal was to give away 500,000 diverse books for kids and teens (from birth through 18)!

Certain locations even offered large print books as well as books in Spanish and Chinese.

As they note: “A lifelong love of reading—and your own home library—begin with choosing your first book.”

Personal libraries

Building a personal book collection can provide people with many benefits – so it’s good to start young.

Having a personal library (however small) helps with knowledge, learning, and personal growth. It can also provide relaxation, stress relief, cultural enrichment, and a sense of accomplishment.

Collecting books can be a calming activity that helps reduce stress and promote mindfulness. It can even help you to regulate your emotions, especially if you collect books that address topics that you’re struggling with or that resonate with your experiences.

study conducted by researchers at King’s College London found that over 30 percent of adults participate in some form of collecting, including books. While psychologists can’t pinpoint exactly what makes book collecting worthwhile, many people take great pride in their book collections.

Studies do show that people who engage in hobbies are happier than those who do not. Book collecting can even be a social hobby if it involves getting out of the house and hunting for books in bookstores or attending book clubs.

Read books, live longer

A 2016 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine actually found that reading books can reduce mortality by up to 20%. You’ll live longer if you read books.

The same was not true of reading other things – like the Internet, newspapers, or magazines!

The researchers noted that “any level of book reading gave a significantly stronger survival advantage.” This was particularly true for adults 65 and older who read books instead of watching TV.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Summer at the Library: Free Book Giveaway!” — NYPL

WTF Fun Fact 13198 – Turkey’s Library of Books Thrown Away

Garbage collectors in Turkey have curated their own library from books thrown away by residents. The books were destined for landfills, but around 6,000 books now sit on shelves waiting to be re-read by the public.

Reusing books thrown away

The trash collectors kept finding books and eventually found a place to put them. It’s an old brick building outside of Ankara that used to house a factory. Its long shape makes it ideal for the long bookshelves that make libraries so fun to browse.

In the beginning, the trash collectors would stash the books and lend them to friends. But as more people heard about it and the number of books grew, they searched for a more sustainable option. The local municipality, Çankaya, found money in the budget to open a library with these books.

We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,” the mayor of Çankaya, Alper Tasdelen, told CNN (cited below).

Turkey doesn’t have a public library system, so it’s up to each region to build, curate, and staff a library themselves.

A new collection and a public good

The library full of books thrown away has a full-time staff member. They’ve even converted a garbage truck into a mobile library/donation truck!

The public has started donating books to the library instead of throwing them away to rot in landfills. You’ll also find magazines and other types of reading materials in the library.

There are some other items found in the trash that have made their way to the library, such as furniture and even games. Some of the space acts as a social center for people in the town.

Talk about turning trash into treasure!

Check below for a video about these garbage collectors’ awesome efforts!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13181 – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 Draft

The first draft of author Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was written on a rented coin-operated typewriter in 1953. It charged 10 cents for every 30 minutes. People estimate that the monetary cost of producing the draft was around $9.80.

What is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

You may have heard of the iconic dystopian novel in high school or college. At least, hopefully. If you’ve only heard about it in the news, chances are you’re not getting the full story (in more ways than one).

Bradbury wrote his novel during the Red Scare and McCarthy era, a time of ideological strife and oppression as the Nazis burned books and Americans threatened to. Some see connections between the current political climate and the one Bradbury wrote in, so the book occasionally comes up during political conversations. As with any book, it’s better to read it for yourself (and also know a bit about the precise context in which it was written since Bradbury was not commenting on 21st-century matters).

The author has given a few different motivations for his writing – fear of American book burnings, fear of mass media (specifically, the rise of radio and television) ruining our interest in literature, and government censorship. Again, these are all things we worry about today, but in a different context.

If you know anything about Bradbury himself, it can further complicate the reading of the book. He felt that political correctness was a form of censorship, but also abhored politics in general, especially in education.

Set in the distant future, the book is about “firemen” who are charged with burning any book they find. The main character eventually grows disenchanted and dedicates himself to the preservation of books.

Bradbury’s basement writing

Bradbury had great disdain for media consumption via radio, TV, and later the Internet. In his later years, he often encouraged students to “live in the library” instead. Unable to afford college, he educated himself at the Los Angeles Public Library. But he was also disappointed by their lack of science fiction literature.

Nevertheless, in the early 1950s, he worked in the basement at UCLA’s Powell Library. He had children at home, so needed a quiet place. It was there that he typed out the first draft (or novella version) of Fahrenheit 451. It was originally called “The Fireman.”

As for the title, according to Open Culture (cited below):

“When it came to finding the book’s title, however, supposedly the temperature at which books burn, not only did the library fail him, but so too did the university’s chemistry department. To learn the answer, and finish the book, Bradbury finally had to call the fire department.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Ray Bradbury Wrote the First Draft of Fahrenheit 451 on Coin-Operated Typewriters, for a Total of $9.80” — Open Culture

WTF Fun Fact 13146 – Oldest Library in the World

Al-Qarawiyyin Library is the oldest library in the world. It is located in Fez, Morocco, and was part of the oldest continually operating university in the world, al-Qarawiyyin University. The university opened in 859. (If you’re thinking this can’t be right because Oxford is the oldest university, note that it’s simply the oldest in the English-speaking world. Even the University of Bologna was founded after al-Qarawiyyin.)

Al-Qarawiyyin had a library, but sultan Abu Inan Faris founded the one we consider the oldest continually operating library in 1349. He was able to collect some of the world’s most precious manuscripts.

How the al-Quarawiyyin Library came to be

Al-Qarawiyyin university, its library, and a mosque were founded by a woman (around the same time algebra was invented!).

Her name was Fatima El-Fihriya, and she even attended the university. Born in Tunisia around 800 AD, her family became wealthy as a result of her father’s successful merchant business and migrated to Fez.

Both well-educated, Fatima and her sister Maryam went on to found mosques in Fez. Fatima’s wealth was a result of her father having only two daughters to leave his riches to, and Fatima’s husband and father died shortly after her wedding. However, we know little else about their lives. A fire in 1323 destroyed most of the records that could tell us more about her life.

It appears Fatima El-Fihriya’s goal was to make Morocco an educational hub, which she did. In fact (while it’s disputed), she likely influenced the future of educational institutions around the world.

Al-Qarawiyyin offered many courses on the Qur’an, but eventually expanded to include the study of medicine, grammar, mathematics, music, and astronomy. It drew intellectuals from all over the world.

Once accessible only to academics, the library is now open to the public thanks to a full renovation Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni began in 2012 and finished in 2017.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Fascinating History of the World’s Oldest Library; Al-Qarawiyyin Library and University, Fez” – Odyssey Traveler

WTF Fun Fact 12551 – The Six-Sided Book

A 16th-century book with a single binding is constructed so that it can be read in 6 different ways and contains six different texts. All six books are religious and were first printed in Germany in the 1550s and 1570s. Each book has its own tiny clasp closure.

Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, first discovered a type of book he dubbed a “Siamese twin” about eight years ago.

“The binding is called “dos-à-dos” (back to back), a type almost exclusively produced in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are like Siamese twins in that they present two different entities joint at their backs: each part has one board for itself, while a third is shared between the two. Their contents show why this was done: you will often find two complementary devotional works in them, such as a prayerbook and a Psalter, or the Bible’s Old and New Testament. Reading the one text you can flip the “book” to consult the other,” he wrote.

Check it out:

From the Folger Library

But when he posted about the 6-sided book, the oddity was picked up by a wide range of news sources. It’s an incredible piece of technology (a word we now reserve mainly for electronic capabilities).

It’s incredible what you can find in library archives!

The book was discovered in the National Library of Sweden. It is also referred to as a dos-à-dos, and Kwakkel states:

“Not only is it a rather old one (it was bound in the late 16th century), but it contains not two but six books, all neatly hidden inside a single binding (see this motionless pic to admire it). They are all devotional texts printed in Germany during the 1550s and 1570s (including Martin Luther, Der kleine Catechismus) and each one is closed with its own tiny clasp. While it may have been difficult to keep track of a particular text’s location, a book you can open in six different ways is quite the display of craftsmanship.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “A Medieval Book That Opens Six Different Ways, Revealing Six Different Books in One” — Open Culture