I’m convinced that people who say, “libraries are dead” or “reading is dead” haven’t ventured into a library in decades. Go to your local library. I dare you to walk over there right now. Please tell me what you see. I’m sitting in the north branch of the Evanston Public Library right now, and there are no less than 30 or 40 people here, and this is a tiny, store front branch, a branch that the city considered closing a few years ago, but luckily didn’t. They DID close the south branch, and the community opened their own volunteer-run library (one of the more awesome library stories) to prove the importance of the branch. This independently run library was eventually folded back into the Evanston Public Library system, and now functions once again as the south branch.
But back to today. I am here writing. There is a lady next to me talking on her phone, but I don’t really care. I didn’t come here for a quiet atmosphere. I had that at home. I wanted to be in a productive environment, to jump start my writing. I like things happening around me when I write. And there is plenty of that here. There are hoards of toddlers cruising around with moms, dads, babysitters, and grandparents. I can hear a librarian singing to them. There are maybe 10-15 adults of varying ages looking for books and movies, milling around, pulling things off the shelf. There is a group of 3 moms talking about books right behind me. I’m listening in. I’m getting ideas. Maybe I’ll read that book. It sounds pretty good.
I’m sitting by the door, which is continuously opening and closing, and the book drop is also near (as is everything in this tiny branch), so there is a periodic “thump” as books slide down it. I love it. I love everything about libraries. I became a librarian because I thought about the places I most like to spend time and libraries are it. There is always something happening. There is always something interesting to read, to write, to overhear, to encounter. And this is a place that I can come and work all day if I’d like to, and not pay a dime. And I’m welcomed, as is everyone.
Last week, I was at the Dawes House, and I was talking with a fellow parent at my kid’s school. We were looking at a map of our neighborhood from the 1970s, which had all the businesses on Central St. (our little neighborhood business strip) written down next to the buildings. It was fascinating. I didn’t live here then. It was cool to see what was the same and what had changed and try to imagine what it was like. He told me a great story about saving up his allowance to buy a transistor radio at the “broadcast” store, and then I noticed the north branch of the Evanston Public Library, in the same spot as it is today. I said something like, “Wow, I didn’t realize the library has been there so long.” And he said, “Oh yeah. It’s been there as long as I can remember.”
As it should be. As I hope it will be for a long time to come.