Temples of book worship
If you visit, or subscribe to, this blog, you love books. And if you’re anything like me, you caught your bibliophilia from a library, most likely the one in your home town. Here was mine, in Santa Cruz, California, a building I visited at least once a week when we lived there in the early fifties:
This was one of some 2500 libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie, who believed that success was due to hard work and a bit of assistance with the tools of self-education. If you can’t imagine a town without a library, accessible to all, that’s due in large part to Carnegie’s philanthropy—of the 3500 US public libraries in 1920, half were built with Carnegie monies.
My family moved a lot when I was a kid because, rumor had it, my father would read his way through one library and want to shift to another. Now, I buy most of the books I read for pleasure (often donating them to one library or another afterwards) but for research, I depend on places with huge stacks of old books. I feel at home there.
When the Internet was rising up around us, talk was that libraries were doomed, that they were costly anachronisms that would soon be echoing and empty. However, the process of reinvention would have made Andrew Carnegie proud: libraries everywhere are becoming the hub of their community, with books, yes, but also with computer terminals, literacy classes, meeting rooms, lecture halls, even cafes for those who prefer to study in a noisy hubbub.
When I go on book tour later this month, the book’s launch will be at a library. If you’re near Boston, please join us.
Next week is National Library Week. My friend Neil Gaiman, Newberry Award winner, national treasure, and all-around Good Guy, is the Honorary Chair—go buy one of his books to say thanks. (And when you’ve read it, maybe donate it to your local library?) To celebrate Library Week, as our Twenty Weeks of Buzz draws towards its end, we have a contest going.
My Fantasy Library can take any form you like: essay, poem, drawings, Photoshopped images, YouTube performance, it’s up to you. The theme, obviously, is what your fantasy of a library would be. Public or private library, large or small, general or specific—this is your fantasy.
(One of my favorite blogs, Curious Expeditions, did a post a while back that amounts to porn for librophiliacs, a mouth-watering, mind-boggling set of photos of libraries around the world, that you can wander through for inspiration. Although as the disclaimer says, they’re not responsible for any scrolling-related injuries.)
If your vision of the ultimate library wins, you get prizes, of course—the details are here.
But if you win, your favorite real-life public library (Carnegie or not) also gets prizes: All 20 Laurie R. King novels.