Books still have a strong place in people’s lives, despite digital media and the hurry-up pace of the world, booksellers and librarians in central Maine said Tuesday — National Book Lovers Day.

The way to celebrate National Book Lovers Day — the origin of which is a mystery, according to — is to read, and Mainers are still doing plenty of that.

“The rise of digital media has made the physical book a source of not only refuge, but balance in people’s lives,” said Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney Doak and Garrett Booksellers in Farmington.

“When you think about the term ‘interactive,’ in a very real way there is nothing more interactive than a real book, to have the words relay into your mind,” he said. “There is a privacy there and there is a quiet and there is power. And bookstores provide a place for us all to connect and share reading.”

“The physical book is just a different experience,” Brechner said. “It provides an experience that is a very healthy, balanced antidote to the more ephemeral experience the people are immersed in online.”

Librarians across central Maine agreed.

Dale Jandreau, director of the Skowhegan Free Public Library, said people are still reading the classics, along with contemporary authors and new titles. He said libraries — and books — are as relevant today as ever.

“People are still coming in and accessing the library. That’s kind of our proof — the number of folks that still use it every day and every week and everywhere in the United States,” Jandreau said Tuesday. “The advent of the internet didn’t do away with books or people wanting to read books.”

Elizabeth Pohl, director of Lithgow Public Library in Augusta, agreed. “Books are very relevant, in whatever form they take,” she said. “And libraries are relevant, not just for books but for a place for people to meet in the community, and access information.

“E-books too. They’re just another way of reading.”

Maine has more than 260 public libraries, said Alison Maxell, director of Maine State Library public relations and outreach services, research and innovation, and their largest challenge doesn’t come in finding readers, but in trying to provide continued service while struggling with limited budgets.

She said even in the digital age, libraries continue to thrive.

“In Maine, where many places are so rural in nature, libraries are often the heart of the community,” Maxell said. “People come for the books, but they also come for social reasons. It’s their place. They’re going there for literacy, for job career centers, for children’s programs. It’s access to the larger world.”

And when it comes to the books, it’s about more than words on a physical page, but rather an experience that transcends the medium they come in.

“It’s about the story and the content inside,” Maxell said. “It can be wrapped in any package, but it’s the love of the story and the content, the reading and learning, the sense of curiosity — that’s what people love about books.”

Staff writers Lauren Abbate, Rachel Ohm, Doug Harlow and Keith Edwards contributed to this story.

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