I met a close friend the other day before work at a coffee shop. Both our toddlers were tucked away at daycare and our schedules aligned for a full half hour before I was off to teach English 102. She remarked that she had recently visited our remodeled neighborhood branch of the public library and lamented that it wasn't at all what she wanted.
"I wanted to feel like I was at an old Ivy League college. I wanted tall book shelves, dark wood, reading lamps, quiet --and it's nothing like that! It's so open with short stacks and computers and a Super Fun kids area."
I nodded slowly. I've tried to convince administrators that there is romance in libraries and been rebuked. She went on,
"Like, what are they? A computer center? A copy shop? what?" She asked.
We want to be everything to everyone. We're like a middle school kid that will do anything to get an invite to your party: wear different pants, act like our parents are married, change our hair. I get it, I get it, I get in. Times have changed. People don't go to the library on some admirable desire to sit at the feet of great books and educate themselves a la Martin Eden. I know they now go to work on a resume because they don't have a computer at home, watch pornography, and vote -- a great noble trifecta of tasks. And we fight that image with everything in us -- We're not quiet! We're modern! More than books! we yell from the rafters and yet people still come to libraries looking for books and looking for quiet. I don't want to kick out the computers. I love the public library maker labs. I also am so annoyed that I lost all my iPod music and glad I held on to my CDs and working on building up my vinyl collection. Because romance. Because of the real thing. Because of the physical version I can touch, see, and watch come alive. I believe in it and tall shelves and old wood and reading lamps in a LEED certified building. Do you really think college kids will continue to brag about having sex in the library if they no longer think they're defiling a holy place? Come on, right?