Friday, July 24, 2009

Closing Time - Marian Has Left the Building

I believe that public libraries have outlived their usefulness. Spare me all the howling and the Norman Rockwell clattering about Main Street, USA. You're only showing how long it's been since you paid more than lip service to a public library. Marian the Librarian has retired, and Donna Reed never worked there - that was a figment. I have been to Main Street, and it's not like that any more. (never was, actually, but that's a different story)

Do you know what happens in the Milwaukee public library system, when a child does not return a book? NOTHING. There are no fines, no charges for lost materials, no attempts to recover the materials, NOTHING. Why? A librarian told me: "They're trying to encourage the children to read, to get books into the hands of the children, and it 'sends the wrong message' when a library requests responsibility of the kids, and asks them to return what they have borrowed." So, what's the next child in line going to do, if the book is not on the shelf, but, instead is in an abandoned Walgreen's bag on the sidewalk two blocks from the school? Never mind, I've seen what happens when you've been 'sent the message' that you don't have to repay what you borrow. Can you say "Fannie & Freddie?". Message received. Can you even read the books you leave lying around in the public way? Welcome to the new slave stratum.

The library organizations have become bloated bureaucracies, unaccountable to the people who are paying their salaries. The selections are made by agenda-driven indoctrination committees. Titles are selected by the same rulers-of-the-world that are turning out the illiterate geniuses by the hundreds from the public schools. And the people at the desk are crabby and don't want to help you. So, if you like the weight of an old cloth-bound book in your hand, and the feel of a crumbling old page as it gives up its wisdom to you, forget it! There's nothing like that at the public library any more. Go look.

In fact, there's nothing at the library that I couldn't find on amazon & ebay for pennies. And Google and Gutenberg are trying to get everything that was ever in print scanned and digital, in most cases searchable, so, for research purposes what can a public library find that can't be dialed up on a $50 used computer, or even a cell phone for that matter? Nothing!

There was a movie version of the first Stephen King novel, "Carrie". A girl has telekinetic powers, and she goes to the library to do research. An extended closeup of the hands going through the typewritten index cards in the library's wooden card catalog drawer. It was very quiet. You wanted to leave the show-house and go to the library and research something.

I remember the Watertown Public Library of my childhood, with those yellowing volumes on wooden shelves, with duck-tape reinforced spines (they didn't call it duck tape back then, and it was maroon or black) with the titles and Dewey Decimal numbers hand-written on the backs in white ink? And Mrs. Roberts at the desk, keeping an eye on you that you didn't bring in food, or just sit there talking with your friends. Remember how nice the inside of a an old book smelled?

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52


SugarCain said...

Gary, This post really brought back memories. My first job that wasn't babysitting was as a library page at the public library for $1 an hour. We called that tape "binding tape."

WV: rasisi - Here is your salad with extra rasisi and lawn clippings.

Leslie Hanna said...

Oh, my, but this does bring back good memories. I lived in our library, as did my friends. I mourned the day libraries abolished the index-card references. Oh, how I loved to pull out those drawers and flip through the cards.

And quiet; yes, the quiet. I went to my local library a few years ago and thought I'd mis-stepped into a playground. Kids' area? How about you teach them to be QUIET in the library. Then maybe they won't grow up an shout in cubville thinking they are not bothering anyone. Oh, sorry, rant tangent on YOUR blog comment.

That's pretty outrageous about the No Responsibility thing. And it would be such a great way to learn responsibility, too. Maybe the difference is our PARENTS taught us responsibility. Something's missing somewhere, and I sure hope we get it back.

Lydia said...

That is absolute LUNACY! I remember fearing fewer things more than a late library book, much less one in a Walgreens bag on the curb.

I'm sad for our constitutional republic. :(

However, the image of the card catalog (and the smell which I can recall right this instant) makes me happy.