On Libraries

Some people have attitudes about libraries.

"They smell funny."

"There are homeless people there."

"The books are all messed up."

"They never have what I want."

Fine, fine, they're not always the classiest joints, but the concept that holds together all libraries is more important than typical bourgeois complaints. Libraries are places where anyone, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, smart or dumb, can have free access to books. And in honor of National Library Week, I'm here to sing their praises.

I obviously buy my books now, as I want to build my own library, but I didn't for a very long time. Growing up my family visited the Modesto branch of the Stanislaus County Library a few times a month (sometimes even once a week during the summer). My parents never put any constraints on how many books I checked out, as long as I could carry them myself (picture a really dorky little girl with huge glasses carrying a tower of books). When we were very small we went to
story hour, and then when we were older we enjoyed roaming the library, using the card catalog and then eventually the computers (for all you youngins, a card catalog was when the names of all the books were actually typed out on cards and organized in drawers.... and next week I'll define cassettes).

After graduating from high school I went south to UCLA, which boasts twelve libraries. My favorite was definitely Powell, which had huge reading rooms with comfy couches for napping/studying. When you went you knew you were surrounded by people who cared about learning just as you did. During finals Powell was open twenty-four hours a day, with people brushing their teeth in the bathroom and setting their cell phone alarms to make it out on time. There was a sense of exhausted, stressed camaraderie.

These days the only library I frequent on a regular basis is the one at the high school where I teach, a place that is inviting to all students and staff members (what our librarians lack in budget they make up for in crazy antics). Periodically I also attend the LA Library's ALOUD events, which bring in different authors for readings. While I know I'll most likely buy my kids gobs of books, I will also make sure they are well-acquainted with the library- for me it's a rite of passage.

And to be quite honest, if I'm ever homeless you can bet your ass I'd spend my days at a library (and the gym).

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm.... I always said if I were homeless I'm make my way into a jail so I can have shelter and food....a library doesn't seem to bad either I guess.

    I love our library! I was bombed by bouncy balls once and it was entertaining!