Tunes for a Monday Morning
The capacity for astonishment

Libraries great and small

Reading is an Adventure by Charles Vess

"Libraries are the best literacy resource we have," says Malorie Blackman (the current Children's Laureate of Great Britain) in a recent article penned for The Guardian. "For children they provide an equaliser that allows everyone access to books, story-telling sessions, homework clubs; expert librarians who give non-partisan assistance and advice regarding books; and warm and safe environments within which to discover and explore the world of literature. Libraries switch children on to a love of reading, with all the ensuing benefits, and can make them lifelong readers. Without them, literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone."

From Library Lion by Michelle Knudson

''Library Mouse'' by Daniel Kirk

"Libraries," as Rebecca Solnit describes them, "are sanctuaries from the world and command centers onto it: here in the quiet rooms are the lives of Crazy Horse and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Hundred Years' War and the Opium Wars and the Dirty War, the ideas of Simone Weil and Lao-Tzu, information on building your sailboat or dissolving your marriage, fictional worlds and books to equip the reader to reenter the real world. They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens onto another world, which might be the magic that all those children's books were alluding to, and a library is a Milky Way of worlds."

Adopt a Library

'A great library doesn't have to be big or beautiful," Vicki Myron points out. "It doesn't have to have the best facilities or the most efficient staff or the most users. A great library provides. It is enmeshed in the life of a community in a way that makes it indispensable. A great library is one nobody notices because it is always there, and always has what people need.''

Reading Matter by Casia Beck, Things I Need to Survive by The Lady of the Books

"Libraries are a force for good," says Libba Bray. "They wear capes. They fight evil. They don’t get upset when you don’t send them a card on their birthdays. (Though they will charge you if you’re late returning a book.) They serve communities. The town without a library is a town without a soul. The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of all human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance. Libraries are the torch of the world, illuminating the path when it feels too dark to see. We mustn’t allow that torch to be extinguished."

Library destroyed by bombing, London 1940

Thinking about libraries, I'm reminded of this lovely passage from Sarah Smith's Chasing Shakespeare: "I shall tell you what I believe. I believe God is a librarian. I believe that literature is is that best part of our souls that we break off and give each other, and God has a special dispensation for it, angels to guard its making and its preservation." 


And yet libraries are now closing at a horrifying rate....and this will only get worse if we don't take immediate action in the UK, the US, and around the world. (Follow the links to organizations fighting the good fight.)

"Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism," says Neil Gaiman.

A call to arms if I ever heard one.

The Stockbridge Library by Norman Rockwell

The images above: "Reading is an Advemture" by Charles Vess; "From the Library" by Michelle Knudsen; "Library Mouse" by Daniel Kirk; a photograph from  CODE's "Adopt a Library" program;"Reading Matter" by Cassia Beck and"Things I Need to Survive" from The Lady of the Books; a photopgraph of a library bombed in the Blitz, London, 1940; and a poster design for The Stockbridge Library by Norman Rockwell.


Morning, Terri.

Up here in Newcastle we campaigned hard to save our libraries and with quite a good degree of success - although there have been closures.

Where libraries have been closed down, in many cases, they have been re-opened after being taken over by grass-roots community organisations. As in this case:

Here is the excellent Philip Pullman giving his take on why libraries should be saved:

And finally, if you are not already aware of it, there is a national campaign that has been going for several years now:

Libraries are a place for good, where those with homes and without can and do share a common space. God probably is a librarian who also knows how to garden, plant seed and weed. Thank you for this reminder. I definitely have shared the common space of libraries for 50+ years and counting.

Who can ever forget their first experience at the library. We lived in a very small town in south Louisiana and I can recall walking to the library at six by myself and looking at all the books. It was the one place my mom let me go alone. My dreams had come true. They had just gotten in a new series of fairy tales. The pictures I can still remember as if it was yesterday. And thus began my love of fairy tales and their art work.
Oh glorious times during summer vacation when I could go to the city park that had a small satellite library and read my way through the shelves.
After 50+ years still love books, book stores and most especially libraries.

One of my earliest memories of the local library was my deep fear of the woman with the blue-rinse behind the desk. I was a nervous child and she may well have been a lovely woman, but she terrified me. Her hair was like a helmet, and her glasses flashed in the light as though she was robot. I wanted a copy of 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' but I didn't know who the author was and I didn't dare ask her. Because of this I tried to find it on my own and as a result found many other books and myriad authors who enriched my reading life enormously. I finally read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was a student in my twenties.

Is there a moral to all of this. Possibly not, but I wonder what my life with books would have been like if I'd been brave enough to ask the woman with the blue rinse for her help.

My first job after high school was shelving books at our community library, a place I'd been haunting for years like a proper little bookworm. (I still put books back in the correct order if I see any breaking ranks as I browse the shelves, as a kind of almumna/unofficial volunteer.) Something that has really taken off in the states is the "Little Free Library," a creative take on grassroots residential libraries that got its start in Minnesota...and it's spreading.

I love the Little Free Libraries! And I also love hearing about everyone's library memories.

My first library was in my grandparents' town, Somerville, New Jersey -- not a cozy building, but the children's section was good and I discovered the Beatrix Potter books there. I worked in the library of my junior high school, a blessed haven from home, and have a love of the Dewey Decimal system to this day.

( If you do too, have you seen this? )

That necklace is so charming! Though I confess a preference for the Library of Congress system...all those DD numbers and decimal points made me nervous.

The comments to this entry are closed.