Thursday, July 17, 2014

I love you, public library

Call me dorky, but the one thing I'm looking forward to almost more than any other activity on my summer vacation to do list, is our visit to the Joliet Public Library (downtown branch, please. none of that bland West Side shopping-mall-esque architecture for me). In the words of Eloise, I just love love love the public library! All those books sitting there so calmly, waiting to be read by ANYONE. And you can take them all home, twenty at a time if you want! You can take them all home and read them in the hammock or the bath or on the beach, and it doesn't cost you a penny. Nothing, nada, zippo, case closed thank you very much. It is amazing! Libraries. Surely you must have heard of them, yes? They are one of the best inventions EVER.

Someone else who loves libraries is Robert Dawson, who has just published a fantastic book filled with pictures of libraries all over the United States (sadly, the Hiawatha mantelpiece of the Joliet Public Library does not feature among them). This is a hopeful yet wistful reminder of the majesty of the greatest institution, like, ever, as well as a warning of what might happen should we allow this bastion of democracy and learning slip to the bottom of the pile of cultural priorities. Why, lawmakers, when money is tight, do you choose to focus your guns on libraries, of all places? Seems to be the case in England as well as America, and in both countries it is a lamentable philosophy of thought.

Accompanying Dawson's photographs are reflections on the subject of libraries by such celebrated minds as Isaac Asimov, Anne Lamott, and E.B. White,  topped off by a magnificent introduction by Bill Moyers, a longtime advocate of reading and self-propelled learning. From architectural gems such as the Los Angeles Children's Library (pictured above) to the teensy little free libraries popping up on front lawns over the globe, the remarkable range in Dawson's book reveals humanity's elemental need for libraries as sanctuaries of learning, as centers of the community, as living records of civic identity, and above all as a testament that information and knowledge belong to everybody-- not corporate behemoths, government agencies, or the privileged few, but to the people.

image via here

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