Books & Screens: When is Bright Too Bright?

Light. Love it. Can’t live without it. By mid-January I’m grateful to see longer days and later sunsets. But the blinding light of an obnoxiously bright computer screen is not what I had in mind by light. I recently replaced my antiquated ten-year-old computer, and decided that a bigger screen would be a writer’s dream: two manuscripts could fit side-by-side for easy comparison. Bad idea. Instead of the big screen becoming a friendly, useful tool, it brought only stinging eyes and an ugly headache. Googling the situation uncovered evidence that I’m not the only one with the problem, and it’s not necessarily an easy fix. Adjusting the monitor transforms the crisp bright whites into grimy shades of gold and brown. It seems that Microsoft Windows 10 might also play a part in this conspiracy. Is technology going backwards?

Enough of this complaining. I needed some of nature’s real sunlight and a breath of fresh air, so headed downtown to the Ames Public Library. My screen rage evaporated when I walked through the library doors, wheeling my newest grandchild in her stroller, following the footsteps of my 9-year-old granddaughter who hurried ahead to the middle grade shelves to pick out an armful of books. As usual, we stopped to play a leisurely game of chess. This particular grandchild, like one of her cousins, is a strategist; she plots and plans, and sometimes clobbers me in her first couple of moves. She has the nerve to swoop in and snatch up my king before I’ve even decided which pawn to move out of home row. However, sometimes in chess I’ll get on a roll, and an unexpected move will appear magically to me. I’ll sneak right in and grab that king before my opponent sees me coming. I have no idea how it happens, but it does, and more often than I deserve. In my novel writing strategy I also seem to fly by the seat of my pants. Thank God for lucky flashes of light along the way.

Rejuvenated by the bright colorful books and sunny atmosphere of the library, we checked out our books at the handy-dandy scanning machine, and headed toward the exit. A lighted display case caught my eye and we stopped to peer at the exquisite scene inside. Buried under sparkling snow was a beautiful cut-away view of an underground cave. A bear in a bed, snuggled under a blue and white quilt, was surrounded by forest friends, all keeping warm beside a fire, with a kettle heating over the flames. Propped above the delightful display was a gorgeously illustrated book titled, “Bear Can’t Sleep,” by Karma Wilson.

The small bear and miniature quilt in the library’s display case looked exactly like the illustration on the cover of the book, so I asked the nearby librarian if the figurines were available to buy, sort of like Star Wars figures are sold to go along with movies. It turned out that these weren’t for sale, but she told me that an Ames librarian had sculpted the bear figurine from clay and also painted the tiny quilt to match the illustration. For many years, the artistic librarian, and others before her, have been creating figurines and setting up displays to call attention to featured books. These displays have become a sixty-year tradition at the Ames Library. Each day, before the library closes for the evening, the showcase is the last light to be turned off before everybody leaves. Now that’s a light I can live with. I went home, squinted at my obnoxious screen, and ordered a pair of clip-on sunglasses designed to filter out the brilliant blue rays of light.

2 thoughts on “Books & Screens: When is Bright Too Bright?”

  1. Lois,
    What a beautiful post. Your library and it’s keepers sound wonderful. And, wow. 9 and scooping up kings. Now THAT’s pretty amazing!
    Glad you found a solution to your screen-light issue!

    1. Thanks to Libraries help light up the world! And what would readers do without authors? What would authors do without readers?

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