Thursday, July 29, 2010


I typed l-i-b-r-a-r-i-e-s on my "Do List" two weeks ago. I crossed it out. The news that libraries in New York City are going to be closed on Sundays, didn't seem very significant. They're already closed on Sundays in Brooklyn, and in quite a few other cities as well.

Isn't the fact that more than a few hospital emergency rooms have been shut down more significant? And there are probably going to fewer policemen, firemen, and street cleaners -- garbage/recycling pick-ups have already reduced.

So why am I fussing about libraries?

Because going to the library -- heading for the quiet, wonderful walls of books, the grey, green, blue, brown bindings in neat rows, is for me, a cherished routine.

Actually I haven't been to a library for a long time. Researching online is faster, easier, more up-to-date. My dictionaries, my collection of World Books, my Britannica, Americana, and Lexicon encyclopedias are getting dusty.

Okay -- the library was a sacred place for me in Winnetka -- a soothing, special, private place for me in Harrisburg -- the only place at Antioch College where I felt at home. I wasn't a student, I worked at the library -- my job was repairing books, also putting returned books back where they belonged, according to the Dewey Decimal numbers, or the author's last name.

Re-arranging books was a tedious chore, but I loved being a book mender -- removing a broken book back -- covering it, pasting on a strip I cut from a paper-bag -- sometimes replacing an entire cover with a double-layer of colored paper, folding in the sides and corners like a nurse making a bed. Then checking the entire book -- scotch-taping all the tears on its pages.

Yes, some of my dusty books could use mending, but I don't have the supplies, and I've forgotten most of the techniques I mastered when I was paid 85 cents an hour as a book mender.

I can't forget the day I told my sister -- "I've read all the A's --fiction by authors whose name begins with A -- I'm starting on the B's." I was a book devourer in school. And later, in the car, as a dancer/artistic director, chief-cook and bottle-washer of a dance company, I was a voracious reader of paperbacks, when I wasn't behind the wheel.

I love books. I love libraries. I love the New York Main Library on 5th Avenue and 42nd, with its stone lions. The builders named them Leo Astor and Lady Lenox. Mayor LaGuardia dubbed them Patience and Fortitude.

I love the guys who donated the money to build that library, to build all the libraries in New York, and other places. I love the world that has developed people who love books, love to read, and love libraries.

I'm not sure if that same world will exist two years from now. I'm not even sure that books will exist with Kindles, iPads, or other new technology that puts book stories and research pages on a palm-sized screen (your phone's face), and is making newspapers, bulletins, newsletters, anything written on paper unnecessary, obsolete. And last night, a reporter announced, "Publishers say they will no longer be publishing hard-covers."

All that's happened is that New York City libraries will be closed on Sundays. But so many things I used to count on are no longer something I can count on. Is it because of the recession? I don't think so.

There's a creeping unnessary-ness that's sort of like a tide coming in and washing away too many things that I love.


Carola said...

I love libraries too. In fact I volunteer at one - 2x a week. I am really sorry that the era of hardcover books seems to be going away.

Kevin Daly said...

You and I share a common bond - I worked at the college library at New Paltz (where I was a student). Outside of performing it was probably the best job I ever had. I've always been a biblophile. Libraries, Barnes and Noble and those marvelous second hand book stores are my quiet havens. Much joy to be had spending an hour or two browsing.

I don't want a Kindle or a Nook. I want a book. I love turning pages, I love trying to keep the spines from cracking (and always failing) and I love checking the top of the book to see my progress when I've finished for the day. It's the little things...

Anonymous said...

my sister works in an oregon library. she got her masters in libreary science in '75 in eugene. worked in real estate office. pleased to finally be back at university. my niece got her teaching credential at columbia, taught in the bronx one year. taught in seattle. works at uw library, very happily. what drew them there? the feelings of the libraries. remembering the safe place, the happy place, the dusty, musty place with the feelings of love and acceptance. nothing to prove; nothing to be, other than yourself.

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