Sunday, February 24, 2013

TSS: Why libraries are awesome. An answer to Mr. Terry Deary

If you've been paying attention to the latest news (book related news that is) you already know about the controversy started by Mr Terry Deary. If you haven't, I will refer you to Amanda Nelson's post. You can go and read it and come back in 5 minutes.

Oh good, you are back. 

Maybe you are outraged, maybe you agree with Mr Deary, and as I've always said, it is not my job to tell you which one is best for you. However, I will share how I feel. Not towards the person, since I have never met Mr Deary, but towards the statements against libraries.  Or in other words, let me tell you why I love libraries and think that they still have a lot to give.

The first time I went to the National Library I was overwhelmed by the smell of books. I went there as part of a school assignment and spent the whole day in the building. It was full of people and yet it was very quiet. Everyone was concentrated in their books; everyone had a book in their hands! I was around 11 and I was in heaven. At the end of the day I wanted to take a book with me (The Godfather actually) but I didn't have a card back then so I had to leave empty handed. I was beyond sad because this library wasn't particularly near home and I knew it would take a while before I could come back and get my card.

But the thing about this was that I fell in love with public libraries right there. Until then I only used my school's library and I knew it was quite limited, but since I was one of the only ones taking books out that were not mandatory to read, I never had the angst of having to wait for a book. It was always there. The public library added extra content. I would hear about a great book and I would have my fingers crossed all along hoping I would be able to find it in the library AND there would be a copy available.  What was even better, was finding other books around the one I was looking for and ending up with a long piece of paper full of names and numbers (remember, this was before Goodreads and even constant access to the internet, so you know, it was a big deal) and walking around enormous bookcases.

Libraries allowed  me to find new authors, new genres. It allowed me to experiment different trends without spending my already little pocket money. And when I found something that moved me beyond words I would get it for myself whenever it was possible.

When I first came to Canada for an exchange (well, actually it was the second time, but the first one was a summer camp and I wasn't really on my own getting around) and went for the first time to the library of the Science department I fell in love again. Is not that it was so different from libraries back home (sure a better budget was evident) but it was the fact that I felt home. I read The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings by Octavio Paz while snow was covering my window for the very first time in my life and I felt...happy. I was here for 8 months that time, in the middle of winter, so my bags where full of clothes and I was being very careful with my expenses since I didn't want to be caught in an emergency, so having access to the library saved me from boredom at first and from being homesick all through that experience.

When someone suggests that libraries should be closed and that are in any aspect a bad thing something inside of me cringes.

Libraries give a lot of people who might not be able to afford it access to wonderful worlds. When Mr Deary complaints about he not getting enough money out of his books I think he is missing the big picture. Libraries allowed people who can't afford at all his book to know his work, to share beautiful moments with other that have felt the same with his books. 

But besides that, libraries are still places for consultation.  I'm 27, I'm doing my PhD, most of the articles I "need" are online...and yet you will see me at least once a week in the Institute's library looking for references, finding the right book to support my evidence. And you will other student comparing notes, cross referencing and discussing (quietly) while trying to solve a problem

Libraries are temples of knowledge in my eyes and hence I will defend them and support them as long as I can. 

For wayt to help your local library, please see this post

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