Craig Wisner

The Library.

If you’re like me, you probably feel a twinge of sadness every time you hear an NPR report or read an article about the slow-death of the public library.  Branches closing, budgets slashed, and public attendance down, all this in the face of rising internet book sales, E-book popularity, and mega-discount retailers.  One has to wonder how long the library can continue to scratch out an existence.

Central Library, Los Angeles, CA.

And if you’re like me, you probably don’t go to the library as much as you feel you should, or as much as you used to.  I too have been lured away by book ownership, by the disdain for waiting for an inter-library loan or for my local branch to order a book.  So I march down to the bookstore or start clicking the mouse button instead.  I confess:  I have helped kill the library.

I would like to reverse this trend.

I spent countless hours in my teenage and college years lost in libraries.  This was long before I, or anyone I knew for that matter, had the internet.  I suspect this plays a large part in it all.  I discovered Bukowski as a teen by complete accident, browsing poetry at the Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles.  The bulk of my education in art history came not from my degree, but from browsing piles of books between classes in college.  As a romantic, I’ve always felt the library potentially represents the best traits and strengths of a society; a free and public repository of knowledge cutting across ages and cultures, built for the common good.  What an unlikely yet beautiful thing that an American teenager can sit in a free and public library and read Marx and Goldman and Bakunin until closing.  Though I suppose those library records can now be seized without a warrant…I digress.

I’ve promised myself to get back into the library, to get away from the instinct to buy what I want to read.

On that note…

Current books on loan:

The William Saroyan Reader

The William Carlos Williams Reader

Now I have to admit, reading anyone’s Reader can make you feel like a bit of a literary hack, sort of like purchasing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to ________ or the Spark Notes for For Whom the Bell Tolls (for which offenders should be summarily shot),  but readers have their place.  I’ve wanted to read Saroyan for years and wasn’t sure where to start.  So far I’ve been absolutely impressed by a few chapter excerpts from My Name is Aram and The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.  I’ll be reading one of those next.

The William Carlos Williams Reader happened to be the best poetry collection by him that was available at the time.  It will suit me just fine right now.

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2 responses

  1. Jeremy

    I’m trying to think of how the public library and filesharing might be compared to each other. I suppose the library is extremely virtuous in that it is absolutely free, whereas for music, iTunes charges a dollar a song. I guess filesharing would be kind of be the digital and musical equivalent to the physical and literary environment/idea of the library. Books checked in are still often enough in print, but there aren’t lobbyists shelling out big bucks for libraries to be shut down. Very interesting.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

  2. Leonid Sokolov

    I found your nice lines searching for a picture of the la public library after reading of it in bumped kid introduction to Dante’s ‘ask the dust’:

    “I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer. I did most of my reading at the downtown L.A. Public library, and nothing that I read related to me or to the streets or the people about me. […] One had to go back to pre-Revolution writers of Russia to find any gamble, any passion.”

    June 22, 2012 at 4:23 am

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