At the Library

This, friends, is one of the “real-time” musings that I want to post more frequently — indeed, that was one of the motives for converting from my old website to this online journal on WordPress.

It’s Saturday morning at ten, and I just settled into a comfy table and chair at the Allen Public Library, a couple of miles from home (streets were too wet for the bike, so I motored here). As I walked through the door, the big wave of pleasant library memories washed over me. The public library is, simply, one of the great American institutions, and it has done wonders for me.

My first library was less than 700 feet (yep, I just measured it on Google Earth!) from home in Edina, Minnesota. It was in an old house, with a newer addition in the rear. At first I went with my mother (who read a lot), then by myself — not a lot of risk in a 700-foot journey! And the other libraries through the years, the wonderful Minneapolis Public Library, a bus ride away, then the great Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota (where, among other things, I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation), the Library of Congress, the State Library of New South Wales (where I stopped in 2004 to do some airline work while teaching for a couple of days), just a couple of months ago the great British Library in London, and so many more.

The library is awesome on many levels, not least as a gateway for those who aspire to a better life. Indeed, on other days my fellow patrons here at the APL include lots of folks who appear to be doing job research. And just this morning, the fellow who walked in before me, a young black man wearing an English Football jersey, had an African accent and carried a thick binder. I mused that he was studying for some sort of exam. Pass it, and life improves.

It’s time to get back to work, but one more comment: it is these sorts of things — a gleaming, well-equipped library, connected with book and Internet to the larger world — that make me happy to pay taxes. The residential property taxes in Allen are high, but for this palace of learning, well worth it. My conservative friends need to spend more time here.

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