The city of Camden, NJ, is preparing to close the library and destroy all books and materials (claiming that it’s too much of a fire hazard to keep them in storage). I told you that I wasn’t being an alarmist by ringing the alarm with the last post I made. It isn’t only about academic libraries going away. This one is going away because of lack of public funds. You might think, “Well, they’ll just start up again when they do get some money,” or “Someone will come through with a grant to keep them open,” but this is the first place that politicians will look to close. “Useless” places like this.
This one isn’t even going electronic. There won’t be Kindles to borrow. But there won’t be any books, either.
Schools public and private don’t want those Outdated Olde Tomes, either: St. Michael’s Academy throws books out the window into 6-foot-high pile as it moves out of building that will later house the Clinton School for Writers and Artists. *heh*
Whatta way to recycle! You sure ALL the principles in that Physics text I see in the front left-hand corner of the fence have changed so much that the book couldn’t help a school in an African village or a homeschooler? Hmm, I think Newtonian mechanics is the same as ever and a good place to start. You could even learn about the Bohr model of the atom and not be that damaged (because later you could use that model as the basis for your understanding of our current model of the atom with shells of electrons.) The literature books aren’t outdated because good literature doesn’t change the way science does. I don’t understand this.
I think we’re on the down-U-lator (as proposed in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”) What does a Collapsing Empire look like? in Salon magazine explores this a bit. Even roads are going to rack and ruin (or, in this case, it actually *could* be “rock and ruin,” the common mondegreen for the cliche, heh.) Long live “rack and roll!” *sigh*
This is still the greatest place to live, IMHO. But we’re sliding down the slippery slope, and I don’t know what’s going to stop us this time. They’ve already spent way more money than we HAVE trying to bail out their friends the fat cats.
Oh . . . in my previous posts, I talked about the way I used to do research at the public library when I was in high school and junior high. I wasn’t researching anything cutting-edge. We used to have frequent term papers or position papers for various classes, and I was usually indulged by getting to choose unusual topics. Some of my topics were “Benchley vs. Parker,” “Movie Comedy Teams” (I did Martin and Lewis, Crosby and Hope, and Lucy and Desi [who did two films along with all their TV work]), “Folk Remedies and Old Woman Magic in the Old South,” “True Causes of the Civil War,” and “Shakespeare Through the Ages.” In other words, I didn’t need the type of resources for these junior high school/high school papers that academics need for their work. It would have been neat to be able to surf the Web for opinions and information about these topics. But what I think has been lost is the serendipity, to some extent, at least. I read a ton of 1930s/40s New Yorker magazines (in bound volumes) for the Benchley/Parker research, and I enjoyed all those old ads–not only what they were pushing, but the way they pushed stuff. The old typefaces! The charming old “filler” anecdotes and silly cartoons. All of it was “on the side” from what I was researching, but it all gave me a great feel for the era and for attitudes of the era. (Attitudes towards diversity were completely different, for one.) I read correspondence from Civil War-era soldiers and home front people that was quite eye-opening and often stunning. I didn’t get all of that through direct searches, is all I’m saying. Now and then I would run across a clue: a yellowed note found between the pages of an older book, or a bookmark with footnotes scribbled on it. I’d have a lot of fun pursuing the clue. I was adding to my store of general knowledge (and pseudoknowledge that would later not check out, as well) and enjoying the time paging through a previous generation’s pop culture.
I wasn’t really claiming that this is better than electronic and guided research–only that I hated to see it disappear along with the stacks. On *real* topics, science and medicine and so forth, you wouldn’t want to do the haphazard research, although it did work well for researching folklore. (That “folk remedies” thing was pretty fascinating, especially since I was doing the research in the 1970s during the first rise of “New Age/ Alternative” hippie fads . . . we had many books from Llewellyn in the library back then and the Whole Earth Catalog and stuff like that, stuff that might or might not make it into an electronic archive. Though the hoodoo pages that are online now are pretty neat!) A side effect was that when I would walk around town clutching a stack of weirdo books, I would often elicit stories from people who had their own ideas for home remedies or folk magic, and that was FASCINATING. I did get somewhat of a reputation as a hippie chick.
I only grieve to see the change in priorities that our society insists upon. All books should be treated as treasures, not trash. Yes, even those self-published PODs. Maybe an electronic format is the answer to save space and save trees. But books that are already in print? Deserve better.
Various charities do collect books and distribute them to poverty-stricken areas and disadvantaged people. A four-star-rating from CharityNavigator.org has been awarded to Books for Africa, so they’re one place to send books. As one commenter said, “A lot of God’s trees have died for nothing.”
ANYway . . . I hate to see Camden’s citizens lose the library. Maybe a benefactor will come along. Other cities are bound to start going the same way, though, and there won’t be enough benefactors.
Perhaps it’s the end of the Age of Affluence and the opening of an Age of Frugality. It’s definitely an Age of Frying-Your-Skin-Off down here. We’ve had three weeks of 101+ temps and it has finally fried the earth. Birds hop around with their mouths wide open to the sky, and I can’t run the sprinkler enough to help them ALL. It’s hurting the animals, plants, birds, and environment. Other places (Iowa) are flooding. Time for the Choctaw Rain Dance. Send rain!