Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Praise of Libraries

I know I said a couple of posts ago that spiders are your friends. But as far as friends go, libraries just blow spiders away.

A library is not
simply a collection of books because when a certain critical mass is reached, it becomes a Library. Yes, more than an amalgamation of book components, rather its own entity with its own life and soul. You can feel it when you walk into a good library. You can taste it... and smell it.

The photograph up above is Pattee Library at Penn State. It smells pretty good. I did a lot of my studying right there in the library. They had rooms full of those big super-heavy, blonde-wood library-tables that you could spread out on like some sort of executive.
But I had the rare and sought-after privilege of having a study location right in the stacks. Absolute silence and a locked area to keep my stuff centered there in the middle of the seventh floor stacks. I mean, really! Who could ask for more?

Because, like I said, libraries (and subsequently books) are your friends.

Think about it.

If you have no social status or social skills, books don't care, they're there for you just the same! If you have no friends, they will volunteer. If you have no money, they will take you places. If you have no education, they will teach you. If you don't know anyone, they will introduce you. Yet, they ask for nothing in return. And they smell good. If that's not a friend, what is?

I've loved libraries since I was introduced to my first school library at William Jennings Bryan Elementary. I couldn't believe there were SO MANY books! Of course, I had to work in the library at all the schools I attended. I never had a chance. Maybe it's genetic.

So, as I was saying in my last post, there was another bus line serving Carol City, the City of Miami bus line that would take me practically anywhere in Dade County. 'Anywhere' included the mecca of all meccas, the downtown main branch of the Miami Public Library.


For thirty-five cents, I could get on a bus five blocks from my house and get dropped off right in front of the library. And it was a beautiful library, this is what it looked like in those days.

Look at it sitting there like a temple in the middle of Bayfront Park, all marble and solid-looking. With more books than I'd ever seen! I read my first Freud there. I wrote my papers there with so much at my disposal, it was like stumbling on the Internet! And they even let me take books home!!

So, what did Miami do with this cathedral? This central magnet of all things good and illuminating? Why they tore it DOWN of course! Why would you want to KEEP something like that? They built another one down by City Hall. Looks like a brick.

Yale, on the other hand, designed their library to actually LOOK like a cathedral. Which it IS!
And inside it was just as impressive, I doubt they'll tear it down in ten years.
And they respected their history enough to keep their old card catalog structure so new students would have a chance to feel fortunate that everything is online. Here's Deb wishing that little cart was motorized.
Oh, I'm not really complaining about Miami's decision to destroy my history. I'm certain they had a really good reason. Look, they had a little exhibit of some of the tools we used to use to sort cards. Wow, that brought back memories.

It's just annoying that I've walked into buildings a thousand years old or more but this beautiful structure, BARELY broken in, with all those marble memories and that wonderful smell - this building had to go. Pfffffffthh!

You can call me a Luddite if you wish, but e-books can't replace books any more than the Internet will replace the Library. Supplement, sure. Complement, absolutely. Replace? Naaah. Have you smelled an e-book reader? It smells
faintly of plastic and machine oil.

That ain't the same thing!


Leah Kleylein said...

The saddest thing ever is a library built in the brutalist style! I wish all libraries had marble and stained glass and wood! :-)

Dave said...

Ahhhh, the smell of books. It's definitely genetic!