Monday, October 13, 2008


I love public libraries. To me they are bizarre holdouts from a different era. When you think about it, they do not fit in to the mold of our modern American, Capitalist lifestyle at all. Publicly funded collections of books, free to the public (if you don't consider the taxes used to pay for everything) and conveniently located around the country. There are no membership fees, no stringent requirements need to be met, just residence. The amazing thing about them is that they serve no particular obvious need. Public schools make sense - without them our society would collapse in less than a single generation. The same could be said for public sanitation. But libraries are practically superfluous. Schools often have their own libraries, so public libraries are not specifically for education. They just provide free public access to information. They are not hallmarks of capitalism. Not everyone benefits from them (many people never use them) and no one profits from them - in fact, some establishments lose money. I would prefer, in most cases, to read a book from the library than to buy it from a bookstore. When I buy it, not only am I paying money for the book, but I also have to store it and carry it around with me wherever I go. Believe me - I own a lot of books.

I understand the historical necessity of libraries. As little as twenty years ago, not everything was available at every time. But now, thanks to the internet, information is free and everpresent. Books that were lost, out of print and buried in basements have resurfaced and can be bought. But still there are public libraries and I love them. The first thing I did after obtaining a North Carolina driver license was to get a library card. I literally got a driver license and that evening I picked up a library card. I feel something special when I go to a library. I feel a crazy sense of community, and books have an extra layer of energy. Books that I own have been read by me only, but books in libraries have been read over and over. I like to know that what I have just learned has been learned before and will be learned again.

So now it is time to pick up my borrowed book and read those words that have been read so many times before.

1 comment:

Heather McIntosh said...

Since I'm a librarian, I feel it necessary to chime in here. Libraries are absolutely not superfluous in this day and age. They are still the great equalizers, providing information to everyone. This is extremely important in a democracy that relies on an educated citizenship (more or less).

I know it may seem surprising, but not everyone has internet access. Libraries provide this service so that no one is left out.

Finally, libraries save resources and energy that would be wasted if everyone had to buy their own copies of books.

It's great that you're a library person. If you're ever in Georgia, I'd be glad to give you a personal tour of mine. ;-)