Why Libraries Are Awesome. Yes I said it.

Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library. –Barbara W. Tuchman, Historian, Pulitzer Prize winner, Library Geek whose memorial service was held at a NY Public Library.

The flash flood on August 4th destroyed some 50,000 books. Plus lots of other stuff at the Main LFPL that made it difficult for the library to function, like three bookmobiles, computers, and furniture. The effect of the Main library shutting down was felt throughout the LFPL system because, well, it’s like the mother ship. The intranet carrying internal communications, and public internet portal were also down. In monetary terms, the damage is some $5 million. Donation information can be found through the library’s foundation here.

Please help the LFPL
Please help the LFPL

Although the recovery effort is still underway, the main library reopened on August 27, ten days ahead of schedule. Reportedly 2,000 people a day use the main library.

Those are the basic facts about the LFPL disaster.

My first library was Californa’s Walnut Creek Public Library. Visits there meant time with my oft-absent father who shared with me his love of books. It was in the WCPL I discovered Harold and the Purple Crayon, and when older discovered Yeats, Wharton and Dickinson. My dad took me on field trips to other libraries in Oakland and San Francisco. My mother grew up using the San Francisco Public Library, and the main branch (both the old and the new versions) became my library as an adult.

My current library is the Louisville Free Public Library. I use the branch in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. I met this library with trepidation because, well, it’s housed at the Mid-City Mall. A library in a mall was a foreign concept to me, I confess, yet the library is as sophisticated as any other I’ve lived with. Libraries are not bound by their physical walls. They are held together by the people who run them and the access to material they provide. For the play I’m currently writing a great deal of my research material has come via the LFPL. The online tools of the library allow me access to JUSTOR as one example. For an important book the library did not have, the staff obtained it for me through the interlibrary loan system from a college library. (That was easily done, too, with an online form.) Writers need libraries, but we are not the only ones who do. You just have to walk into one to see the eclectic mix of browsers and users.

I am old enough to miss the smell and feel of the card catalog beneath my fingers. Yet young enough to appreciate the speed and efficiency of the computerized catalog. I know my ability to make connections between subjects and to ferret out keywords was developed by the old card system and the librarians who patiently taught me how to find information.

I’m not a librarian. I’m just a library geek, a writer, someone who needs and uses the library. When I visit other cities often I check out the local library. The library is for me a measure of our humanity and civilization. Sure libraries carry artifacts about our past and information about our present, but give us much more with no less importance. They provide meeting space for groups, they hold lectures by authors, they run computer classes, they house book clubs, they display exhibits of all kinds, on and on and on and on. We all know this, don’t we?

For God’s sake, a perfect use of tax dollars, the library’s pretty much free to use. I’m penny challenged these days, but I still made a contribution because I’d be lost without the LFPL. Please help if you can.

Check out the LFPL blogathon wiki here.

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