One Story At a Time (ms)

Every so often I find myself at my local library mostly to create my small literary efforts in peace. It’s a good place to do such business for it lacks the noise found almost everywhere else. When I finish my work it is my habit to look for a magazine or book and sit for awhile to read. It adds to the pleasure of my visit. What a shame, I think sometimes, if it all were to go away.

Technology is out there that allows us to carry hundreds of books in one hand. A friend of mine has stacks of paperbacks that would fit easily into such a book reader thereby freeing up much wall space for him, but that’s for another time. As it is from where I frequently sit to write at the library I can look across at a shelf unit that is, oh, twelve, maybe fourteen feet long. It has six shelves vertically and is divided into four sections down its length. I did some completely unscientific estimating and it looks to me like this row of shelving will hold about nine hundred books. That is roughly one-third the number an electronic reader can hold plus, you don’t need to heat it, light it, cool it, re-stack it or clean it. I have such a unit and like it.

Suppose, though, that these readers became so common, so inexpensive, so durable that everyone had one and that someone could then logically conclude there was no longer a need for libraries and they would quietly disappear. Why bother with bricks and mortar when you need only deal with electrons? Pity the day it happens. It would be as abysmal an event as our newspapers ceasing to publish.

The library is where kids have come for generations to meet with the makers of magic, those authors and artists who create children’s books. As things progressed they met Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Nancy Drew. When the age was right they acquainted themselves with Studs Terkel and perhaps read Mein Kampf. Later still they sampled John Steinbeck and for amusement trolled space with Ray Bradbury who allowed them to find some interesting nuggets. Adventures of all kinds waited on the library shelves and countless millions of us couldn’t wait for the next one.

The library works virtually for pennies, depending mostly on community support. It opens its doors to anyone who wants in giving not a thought to race, color or religion. It offers books without regard to their  popularity or position so the Pope, Hitler, Stalin and Mother Theresa occupy space together and their works, works about them, are freely available. Decisions about the individuals are thus left to the mind of an informed reader who has been given the opportunity to look at all sides. Politicians, pundits, editorialists, and purveyors of half-truths can say what they will but the truth lies within the four walls of a library for here one can find a wealth of knowledge and it is worth remembering that knowledge is power.

–Mike Stevens

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~ by admin on June 4, 2011.

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