How about if we buy all the books we can, new and classics in every genre and many languages, and subscribe to dozens of newspapers and magazines from around the world. Then let’s organize these materials in logical order, cataloging and cross referencing them by author, by subject, and by title.
Then let's get some computers and copy machines and printers.
We’ll put it all in a building, and we’ll heat and cool that building, and light it well, and keep it clean and safe. Then let's arrange chairs and tables and cozy reading spots and clean bathrooms.
We could hire people who have trained for many years to use the system to work as helpers and guides. Then we'll open the doors to anyone who wants to come in and read the books and magazines and newspapers, or use the computers, and we won’t charge them a single cent.
Yes, anyone; and yes, free.
And if people want to borrow the books and movies and audio books and take them home, we’ll give them a card and let them do that, too, at no charge.
How about if we offer lectures for the adults, and story hour for the tots, and book clubs for the teens, and movies for everyone? And summer reading programs? And let's make that all absolutely free, as well.
It doesn’t sound possible, does it?
Sounds like some Utopian idealist’s unachievable pipe dream. Such free, public access could not possibly work in our reality, our harsh times. All the books would surely disappear. The free open spaces would be vandalized.
Welcome to the Library!
(I wrote this piece for the Friends of the Glendale Public Library news letter. But please do feel free to pass it on to your own libraries, librarians and library patrons. And join your local Friends of the Library! Your tiny dues buys so much for so many!)