A Slice of Fried Gold

Save Your Library

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Philadelphia Free Library

When I was growing up, I read constantly. Whether it was checking out every Matt Christopher book known to man at my elementary school, or disturbing my 8th grade English teacher by reading James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential and Dean Koontz' Dark Rivers of the Heart and doing oral book reports on them, or terrorizing the Loussac Library in Anchorage as a youngster, perpetually departing with a stack of books and the old video Bambi vs. Godzilla while wearing a typically goofy smile on my face, I was addicted to reading.

In fact, reading so heavily throughout my life has been a big part of my development as a person. I learned life lessons from Atticus Finch. I learned that in some places they eat until they're hungry from the Phantom Tollbooth (I have yet to find this place). I even learned that the best way to properly collar a perp was through force from Bud White. Books gave me the opportunity to develop my varied knowledge base (and a bit from video games: how else would I know who Shiva and Quetzalcoatl were if not for Final Fantasy...oh wait...reading), I am eternally thankful to the Anchorage Library system for providing me the opportunity to attain those books, thus helping me become the person I am today - a mostly literate and occasionally quite thoughtful young adult.

Now I hear that the entire city of Philadelphia, a monumental city from the most powerful nation in the world, will be shutting down their libraries. I understand that times are tough and that sometimes you have to make certain cuts to keep your city alive, but if you take away libraries you start taking away from the heart and the mind of a city. When I read that news, I tried to imagine growing up in a world without easy access to books. What I would have been like had I not read so much. I shudder to think of that personal dystopia, that hellish world where the flames of my imagination had not been stoked by the written word.

Now it's entirely possible that an entire generation of people could grow up in one of the most historically relevant cities in the nation and not be able to go to a library and pick up Fahrenheit 451 or any other classic. I've went on and on about the degradation of the English language and how we're going down a path that is going to nowhere resembling good, and this is another major step in that direction. Not only that, but if this turns out to be a successful venture for the city of Philadelphia, other cities are certain to follow. New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle...Anchorage? Who knows what the future holds for our treasured libraries?

I know times are tough and that everyone has to make cuts in places and programs that they do not necessarily want to. But this should not be happening. Libraries are influential places that open the hearts and minds of those that go there, and if and when I have kids I will assuredly have them frequent whatever my local library is. That is, if they still are operating wherever I am.

A scary thought, but an increasingly realistic one.

Update: Evidently in the eleventh hour there was a vote to stave off the closing of the libraries and the laying off of 3,000 employees. Huzzah!


Patty said...

That's why its so important to stand up for your beliefs and injustices. Raise your voice, otherwise you're just part of the silent majority.

Erik said...

That is terrible!

David Harper said...

Yeah, this is a really terrible thing. While it may have been staved off for now, the fact it was ever considered it was really scary. Hopefully this doesn't move forward as some sort of trend of "oh, well, we could save money that way too!"

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