Sunday, February 18, 2007

It Should Not Come as a Surprise

to anyone, that I believe in libraries. By that, I mean that I be-
lieve in the sanctity of libraries. I believe in the work that they
do. Librarians frequently spend long hours for very little thanks
in order to open up a world of knowledge and history to anyone
who cares to partake. And unless you bring your items back
late, by and large, that world comes to you free.

I am not talking about school librarians here, I should hasten to
say. In general I've found that school librarians tend to attempt
to censor the world rather than open it up. They enjoy the short
hours afforded by the student schedule. And I can't remember
a time when one of them had a kind word to say. They are kind
of like school counselors. They may WORK at the school, but they
don't like the kids. And trust me, I have spent large VOLUMES
of time in libraries of all sorts. Public libraries, school libraries,
and otherwise. What kinds of other libraries have I visited?
Just never you mind.

When I was little growing up in Telluride, Colorado our library was
a very small room, perhaps 15 by 18 feet or so. I had read almost
every book in that library by the time I was in second or third
grade. Right, so I didn't have many friends. Shut up.

Anyway, I could never get my hands on enough books. I could
go anywhere without being bored if I had enough books with me.
To this day, I believe that I could exist in solitary confinement
as long as I had an endless supply of reading material of my

At some point during my pre-pubescent years, Judy Blume
wrote a book that, at the time, was controversial. Riddled with
pubescent angst about periods and training bras, it was called:
"Are You There God, It's Me Margaret."

Some school librarians refused to carry it. Some parents pro-
tested it. I lived in Telluride, easily the most liberal small town
in the nation at the time. There was no such fuss at our small
school. I read it. I was not terribly impressed. My own
mother had already explained the facts of life to me, along
with the proper anatomical terms and I didn't have any prob-
lems talking to God. I didn't always feel he listened very well,
but talking? Never a big problem for me.

But there was a HUGE uproar over this book, and also over
"Catcher in The Rye," and, "Lord of the Flies," and a few others
whose names I scarcely remember anymore. In fact, at that
time, many people in the South, fundamentalists in the religious
right, and the same groups in the midwest, actually burned
books and music frequently at big bonfires. Along with Ouija
boards, tarot cards and the like. Anything which smacked
of what was called, "the occult," and any books or music which
were considered either, "satanic," or "too worldly or secular."

On a very personal level, I'm against destroying expressions
of art. Particularly if it is the work of others. Art, whether it
be painting, music or writing, is something that really is of-
fered up and shared. It is supposed to be evocative in some
manner. It is something that people can come to and exper-
ience and the experience is a perpetual communication for
as long as that piece of work exists. And it is a different exper-
ience for each person, because no one person brings the same
set of values, sensibilities, life experiences and aesthetics to
the piece. And it is a different experience each time the same
person revisits the work, because they see new things in it,
and because they are not the same as the were the time be-

Of course, I'm speaking as if all works of writing and objects
of art and musical compositions are great works that we must
not miss. Anyone who has had to sit through an open-mike
on poetry night knows that this is unfortunately FAR from
being true. My point is, however, that it is not up to any of us
to censor for others, what should or should not be on that smor-
gasboard of selections. (Barring of course those items not in-
volving consenting adults, and anything at all in which teddy
bears are dressed up in baby doll clothes and then photo-
graphed for posters with cute sayings on the bottom. Also, I
think that possibly purple unicorns should be - What, too far?
ok.ok.) Anyway, I'm sure you get my point. Well, I'm not sure,
but you should. The world would be a much better place if
everyone would.

All of that preface was really just window dressing for these
two stories. Yes, told by others, you don't have to listen to
much more of me right now.

How petty and stupid are we as a society to fuss about an ana-
tomical term that every third grader should ALREADY know in:


When people are dying just to have the privilege of working with
books & archives and making certain that these resources are
still available in:


Americans really are quite the spoiled and ridiculous lot some-
times. Whining about the most minuscule things as if they were
really important somehow. I read something like that last article
and it makes me feel ashamed of ever complaining about my own


Andy said...

I used to go to the library every Sunday in college. Something comforting about being surrounded by so much knowledge. It is like 'There is nothing you can't know.' Thanks for all of your participation on 'The Secret' post!

Sydney said...

No problem. You were surrounded by idiots who, save for the last one, couldn't even put a cogent argument together. SOMEONE had to stick around. By the way, I sent your post and the ensuing comments to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Oprah Winfrey really NEEDS SOME BETTER RESEARCHERS on her staff. First James Frey, now this. I think I need to send her my resume. Good God. Do you think she'd let me sell chicken on the side?

Sorsha said...

It's quite interesting to have such passion about libraries..kind of like I do about Armani and shallow as that may sound. I have to admit I never had patience for libraries and was quite thankful when google came about (yes, one person who doesn't think Google is the Devil). Rather than searching through books, I can now get research done is 1.34 seconds and and even copy/paste the citation. But I did once upon a time like libraries...when I was very very little and picked big serious books out of them.

Sydney said...

nah, when it comes to research I love "the google"

I love libraries for the books. researching in a library is way too labor intensive. I use google and a host of other search engines for that. And if I need something i can only get at a library, i can get a search engine to send it to me. hasn't happened yet though.