Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Library Week

It is National Library Week, so I thought I might take a few moments and write about libraries that have been important in my life.

In my opinion, public lending libraries are one of the best ideas humans have ever enacted in any civilization.  You can go to a building and access and probably even take home with you for a time the collected thought, art, and achievement of humankind.  You can access almost all recorded periodicals, books, films, music.  There is internet access, occasionally job skill courses, lectures and events for children.  Ours has chess clubs, book clubs, movie nights.  You can even go there if you don't know how to read and they will teach you.

I'm in agreement with Eleanor Crumblehulme who wrote, "Cuts to libraries during a recession are like cuts to hospitals during a plague."  Or as Carl Sagan famously wrote,
"I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries."
Unfortunately, libraries are one of the first things our elected officials tend to cut when their budgets need to be trimmed.  Which strikes me as odd as they are not exactly money pits to begin with.  Also unfortunate, and the other side of that same coin, is how little the public uses the public libraries relatively speaking.  You'd think there would be crowds.

When I was growing up, we went to the Garden Grove Library and the one in Westminster, both of which seemed small (although both are twice as large as Chico's) compared to the fabulously wealthy and exclusive (you had to live in that city to get a free library card) Huntington Beach Library.  I have a lot of memories around those libraries.

When I was a boy I remember once finding a library book that had somehow sat in my sock drawer for four years and I panicked.  The nice librarian gave me a gentle reprimand over the importance of timely book returns and then told us that the fees capped at something like $5 (I guess we either took a few years off from visiting the library or that book somehow was lost from their system.)  Which is a cute story but I don't think I've ever returned a book late since.

I spent a lot of time at the Chapman University Library and that actually had a lot to do with the man I've become.  I recall Mindy and I doing an unofficial poll in the Student Union cafeteria where we found every film major we could find and asked them if they'd ever watched 1) Citizen Kane, 2) The Godfather or 3) Dude, Where's My Car?  You are probably way ahead of me as to which film was most represented in the answers and dashed our hopes for the future of film making.  Especially since the former two and hundreds of other excellent, classic films were available to borrow for free from the library about 40 feet away from where we were asking that question.  And that was just the general library.  My friend Nathaniel worked in the film school's library which housed thousands upon thousands of films in a secret, windowless basement room.  This was over a decade ago and it's the only way at that time I would have been able to access Orson Welles' entire directorial catalog.

I've spent a lot of my life in libraries and, Lord willing, should I live much longer, I expect to spend a lot more time in libraries.

And, yes, I've taken dates to libraries before back in my dating years.

I've instructed Laurie that, should I die, she should give any of my books that she doesn't want to the library with the stipulation that they all enter circulation and don't get sold to grabby online used booksellers (like me.)

But, the Chico Library is one of my favorite places in Chico.  Increasingly so as time goes by.

Do visit and support your library this week.  And every other week for that matter.  Life's too short not to.

1 comment:

  1. I love the library!! I don't know why people spend money on books when there are so many option available at the local library. I can spend so much time there browsing through everything. And now many libraries have audiobooks and movies that can be downloaded on their website. Yay for National Library Week :)