Salon: ‘Why Libraries Deserve to Be Hip’

I’m not sure of many things, but I’m pretty sure of this: I would not be a writer if my mom had not dragged me to the downtown library in Evansville, Indiana, when I was a boy.

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(Chris Blakeley/Flickr)

Mom turned my older brother and me loose in the stacks in the lower level. That area, the bowels of the place, contained the children’s section. It was a basement, as I remember it, but it wasn’t dreary. There were windows. You could see the feet of people hurrying by on the city sidewalks.

“Get some books,” Mom said before disappearing for a long while.

When she finally returned, I’d have a good-sized stack. Adventure stories. Sports stories. Biographies. My interests were not wide-ranging, but there were more than enough books in the main library for a nine-year-old.

When we got home, my mom made me read the books. (A boy that’s grown into a man will still remember most of the things his parents made him do.) During the summer, there was mandatory reading time for at least one hour in the afternoon. It interrupted play time with my friends. I hated it. I loved it.

The process of going to the library and collecting books repeated itself every week or two.

I thought of my mom when I saw “Why Libraries Deserve to Be Hip” by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.com. Williams reminded me why libraries are such a wonderful community asset.

Here’s a tidbit:

I’m sure someday I’ll get around to getting a Kindle or an iPad, but right now, I’m content with the smell and the texture of paper books, especially the from-the-library kind. I love knowing the book I have for a little while is on a journey through many different hands. I love finding the receipts and the postcards inside them, and imagining who they belonged to. I like the connection. Reading is solitary but libraries are shared.

I’m a member of her choir. Preach it, Sister Mary!

I don’t just think libraries deserve to be hip. I think they are hip. Always have.

Thanks, Mom.

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4 thoughts on “Salon: ‘Why Libraries Deserve to Be Hip’”

  1. I went to school in Evansville and my senior year I rewarded myself with reading. I convinced the library that I could have a card because I attended school in the city limits. The library there is still a treasure and I loved driving downtown to get lost in the stacks. I loved seeing teenagers from Signature School flooding the computers after school let out. I’d venture to the smaller locations through the city and sit in chairs while watching what other people took off the shelves. I love the Evansville library system. Know that it made me happy, too.

    1. Thanks, Sam. Imagine that. Two happy Evansville library users in this great big web universe. I’m so glad it was a “hip” place for you, too. Did you go to University of Evansville? My mom did. (She returned to college after my brother and I were both in elementary school.) It was called Evansville College in those ancient days.

      1. Yes, I’m a proud UE graduate. It’s a wonderful school with a rich history. How wonderful to connect with another Evansville family across the blogosphere.

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