Thursday, November 27, 2003

Libraries are so great and so important. (I am reminded to pick up my books that are on hold this week!)

Here is a short piece by one of my favourite poets, John Barlow on this topic:

Being a child of Librarians, and a writer, my opinions
of the value and importance of libraries is probably
overdetermined, conflated with a sense of life central
where others might only imagine a vague or distant
function. But it has often been my opinion that aside
the very most basic instances of that which we pay
taxes for, libraries are perhaps the last yielding
the kind of direct and as-originally-intended value
to us. While Universities become vague simulacras
of what the economically privileged represent of
human potential in total, and health care is split
among forms of lostness attributable also to
economic and regional disparities and clientele
preferences, (but for enormously overworked
idealists among medical and health workers),
and politicians become warriors at putting the
public at bay, and then dive clear of democratic
imperatives, (the so called promises) restoring
into their own agendas, and other startled
frightened core personnel of the State become
ever more focused on their own preservation,
in our distressing world, Libraries continue to
be of a pure value to communities and individuals both,
dramatically fascilitating salvation of the possibility
of gaining and benefitting from knowledge of every sort.
And so it is with great sadness that I read
of the closing of libraries and art galleries in Saskatchewan,
and urge that ways be sought to keep these valuable and
profound neighbourhood institutions. From the substantial
taxes drawn from me as both a tired worker and, as
with regrettably many in artistic and working
communities, a smoker of cigarettes and drinker
of beer, I know it is close to impossible to
have a "family physician" but rather to have
to go to emergency or walk in clinics,
because the technology and pharmaceuticals
cost so much, and I know that if I seek to contact
a politician, I will be met with staffers trained
in the arts of mitigation, believing themselves
incommensurately more intelligent in relation
to whatever subject at hand, as it pertains to
state function, than the poor miserable caller,
and I know that I will have essentially no role
in influencing the politician's action, any more
than in influencing a corporation's charging of fees
or a corner store's markup on household products,
and as with many other "services" I am aware
that I would be contacting a stressed, overworked,
usually distracted performer of given functions.
But at a library so often what I seek would in
fact be available, analysis of a given subject
or lucid consideration of a world, and with very
knowledgeable people present to further my quest.
So as much as I am given to clear support of
libraries, by lifestyle and background, I think
it is also quite clear from a purely realistic
viewpoint that keeping libraries strong and alive
is politically, economically, intellectually
and socially of the utmost immediate good purpose.
I hope you will consider alternatives to the closing
of the libraries in question. So much else simply isn't
working any more, but libraries are.

Very hopefully, John Barlow


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