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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today At The Library ...

Thank all the deities of every religion that public school starts up in a few weeks, because little bastard children have been tarnishing the greatest unsung gemstone in the crown of American culture ... the public library!

Libraries are an oasis in the desert of television, bad movie sequels, and monstrosities like rap music. Here in the hushed air and metal shelving ... the stacks ... lie the works of some of the world's greatest minds and thinkers. Don't get me wrong, the Internet is a wonder that can connect you almost instantly to knowledge and people across the planet, but to hold a work of fiction in your hand is to touch the imagination of another human being.

I grew up loving the library. "Corduroy," the adventure of a stuffed bear looking for the missing button from his overalls, was the first book to weave its spell of intrigue over me. And I was similarly mesmerized by the rhyming antics of all the Dr. Seuss books. And in fourth grade ... I remember it vividly ... I checked out a book called "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula LeGuin. "This book is to advanced for you," the librarian had said, but I begged and pleaded and probably looked like I was about to cause a scene ... because I was! She acquiesced and I struggled though probably one of the most magical stories I've read in all my life.

And so it went. The library became a place for research, group study sessions, pleasure reading, and even volunteering as a "listener" for the Summer Reading Institutes my local branch sponsored for younger children each year. College was much the same ... the library represented a safe harbor from noisy roommates and classmates more interested in getting their "drink on" then passing another semester. And when I moved off campus to an apartment, the library was where I often came when I turned my heat down to 50 to save on utilities ... or where I stole toilet paper and paper towels to cheap on household items. It was a sanctuary on so many levels.

And now as an adult, my local library branch is an attractive, single-story brick-and-exposed-stone structure where I go to find "mind candy" in the form of historical essays, mystery fiction, sci-fi adventures, and more. Or when the walls of my apartment are closing in, the library is where my laptop and I can spread out and get some work done.

Unfortunately, it's also the place where parents of questionable skill have decided their children should hang out unsupervised during the summer months. Granted, a few are actually reading or pursuing quasi-educational topics on the Web, but the vast majority are loud, taking up space, and spending hours trying to find dirty words and pictures in the Reference section.

And library staffers shouldn't have to be babysitters. I have such respect for librarian science professionals and people dedicated to caring for and sharing the written word. Most are very knowledgeable about authors and current works, as well as helping you search for obscure materials. And friendliness and courteousness must be part of their screening process, because I've never met a rude library worker. But times are tough ... I know budgets have been cut meaning less acquisition dollars and even less hours for personnel ... so why saddle these friendly people with unruly children?

But all is not lost. Most libraries are still a quiet and beautiful repository for books, movies, CDs, and free (of very inexpensive) computer time and meeting spaces. Some are even maintaining extended evening and Sunday hours so people with busy schedules can still utilize their services. And many communities are organizing book drives to encourage citizens to donate good-condition books, references like college texts, CDs, DVS, graphic novels, and other materials in order to offset dwindling funding.

And of course, if you enjoy having a facility like a public library, then do your part when levies and other ballots come up for vote!!

POINT OF RANT: There really needs to be a licensing process for being parents ... come on!!

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