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.
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.