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A Childhood of Reading and Wandering

19 July 2017

From The Literary Hub:

There are ecological reasons to question how books are made out of trees but metaphysical reasons to rejoice in the linkage between forests and libraries, here in this public library, in the town I grew up in, with the fiber from tens of thousands of trees rolled out into paper, printed and then bound into books, stacked up in rows on the shelves that fill this place and make narrow corridors for readers to travel through, a labyrinth of words that is also an invitation to wander inside the texts. The same kind of shade and shelter that can be found in an aisle of books and an avenue of trees, and in the longevity of both, and the mere fact that both, if not butchered or burned, may outlive us.

In the most egalitarian of European—and New Mexican—traditions, forests were public commons in which common people could roam, graze flocks, hunt and gather, and this is another way that forests when they are public land and public libraries are alike: as spaces in which everyone is welcome, as places in which we can wander and collect, get lost and find what we’re looking for.

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. My own writing has depended on public libraries and then university libraries and archives and does to this day. I last used a public library the day before yesterday.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

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3 Comments to “A Childhood of Reading and Wandering”

  1. Sorry, but all I got out of it was that they love paper and want us to kill more trees … 😉

    • The Library Goddess does demand constant sacrifices…

      (Considering that for many of the Greeks, Athena was that Goddess, and the Goddess of War – you darn well did keep them up!)

      • I may be wrong, but I believe the ancient Greeks sacrificed to appease their gods. In other words, “Here. Here’s a goody. Please leave us alone.”

        Shall we do the same with the Library Goddess?

        (PS Writing Observer, RE: Library deity, Aren’t you assuming its gender, you bad, sexist, bad, evil, misogynistic, bad scum? 😉 )

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