Search This Blog

Monday, November 21, 2005

Is the public library dying?

In one of the many unutterably stupid and petty knife fights between our mayor and city council, funding for the library system was cut (they're mostly Dems, so the evil Republican meme doesn't apply). Of course, the branch nearest our home was the one closed by the cuts. Fitting, inasmuch as we live in the part of town gifted with the quaint Indian-derived nickname of Pisonum.

So, the branch library (one of four in the entire city) sat closed for three years, while mumbled ambiguities were routinely invoked about reopening.

As with all such mumblings, the inevitable happened--the city put it up for sale. But, beforehand, there was a big sale, the opening of which permitted Heather to enjoy a solid week of dread. Why? Hardcovers were $1, paperbacks .50, and the final day was "fill a grocery bag for $2."

For less than $70, I acquired a full set of the "deluxe edition" of the Encyclopedia Americana, a fourteen volume set of science books geared toward middle schoolers, about 10 children's books (mostly Babar and Madeline); several Oxford Companions/Dictionaries (to American History; Classical History, also see below for etc.); Hibbert's Redcoats and Rebels; books on the Battles of Britain and Berlin, a carpal-tunnel inducing Johns Hopkins Family Medical Guide (1999), an equally cumbersome Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, the old Scribners Dictionary of American History, Runciman's History of the Crusades, the Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples (with dust jackets--somewhat rare), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (one volume "best-of" edition); Winged Victory, a history of the USAAF in the Second World War and, of course, religious books out the yin-yang:

A full-size Jerusalem Bible (J.R.R. Tolkien translated Job, lest we forget. Though, given the Akallabeth, I think someone should have insisted he take the Second Book of Kings. Oh, and while I'm monologuing--beware the NJB, which reverted to a conventional two column text format and caught a bad case of inclusivity);

Gilson's Christian Philosophy;

The two-volume Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas (edited by Anton Pegis and published by Random House, believe it or not);

The Wisdom of Catholicism (ditto);

Oxford Dictionary of the Saints;

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1964), which has a fine Tractarian tone to the articles;

The Book of Saints;

Woodward's Making Saints;

Oxford Dictionary of the Popes;

The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary (1960 edition);

The New Catholic Encyclopedia, which is about as good as you could hope for from a pair of well-meaning lay Catholics laboring under the aegis of the then-archbishop of Milwaukee (1984);

Other stuff I have forgotten but which leaves Heather with that "Carrie's mom smile" on her face.

What's my point--besides bragging, that is? It is this: I didn't have to go to war to get the books (someone wanted to snaffle the Americanas, but I had half of them boxed up at that point). Sure, there were people ranging the aisles all three days, but the buyers were, with a few notable exceptions, my age or older.

There are young people going to the public libraries, but more often than not they are plugged into the internet outlets--they aren't browsing the dead-tree material. That's a bad sign for the future, I think. Not growing a customer base generally is. Given the bean counter mentality in government, a lack of warm bodies is all the incentive you need to cut them first. Here where we live, "And then there were three" can dwindle to nothing in a generation. I hope I'm wrong.

Just in case, though: If you want guarantee access to a library in the future, you might want to build your own.

No comments:

Post a Comment