Monday, April 18, 2016

In Praise of Libraries

Okay, so I'm late to the party: National Library Week was last week, but I was too busy reading then to stop and write a blog post. Now that I've finished my book, though, I want to spend a few paragraphs raving about that most precious of public resources.

I won't bore you with the history of how libraries came to be in most every city; let's just jump right to the fact that they're there and if you're not taking advantage of the one closest to you, you’re seriously missing out. First of all, your tax dollars are helping sustain that library, so you ought to be reaping its benefits. Second of all, you need to be setting a good example for your fellow citizens by showing them how easy and rewarding it is to be a library patron. And, finally, if you're not visiting your library on a regular basis, you are missing out on so many marvelous things (books are only one of a library's many assets) that those of us who do visit on a regular basis should be lined up murmuring laments on your behalf—but, sorry, we don't have time because we're so immersed ourselves in said marvelous things. Also, it's pretty hard to feel sorry for someone who doesn't take advantage of marvelous things that are there, free, for the taking.*

In the last month, my life has been forever changed by the three most recent books I've read: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb; Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller; and The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. I consider myself a pretty informed person, but each of these books introduced me to information I was unaware of, broadened my understanding of their respective topics, and dispelled longstanding assumptions I've maintained which have now proven to be untrue. On top of all that, each book kept me riveted for hours, bringing immense pleasure and satisfaction. Pretty spectacular payback for something that cost me nothing.* 

This weekend, as I hungrily and regretfully finished the final chapter of The Invention of Wings, I found myself thanking God for words, and language, and the edification and connection that comes from written communication. We take it so for granted, but without the ability to read and write, without words to read and write, our world would not only be scary and confusing, it would be small and dull. I love nature and its many manifestations, but is our experience with a bird's bright feathers and merry song not enhanced by reading about that creature's lifestyle and unique characteristics? Is our encounter with ocean and mountain not deeply enriched by reading of others' encounters, as well?

I do not ever take books for granted; reading has been among my greatest pleasures for my entire life and I mourn the thought that, a hundred years from now, books and bookstores—even libraries!—as we know them may not exist. All the more reason to arise at this very moment and travel to a library near you to select a title (or two . . .or three!) that will transport you to a place you've never been, a place you dearly love, or a place you can only imagine.

See you in the stacks!


*Alas, unless you come on foot, you cannot experience the library for free at Greenville’s Hughes Main Library. In what is an abomination akin to requiring payment to attend church, one must pay to park at the downtown library. Therefore, I urge you to know what titles you want so you can get in and out in under 15 minutes (no charge!), go after 5 PM (no charge!), or patronize one of the branch libraries instead.

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