February is Library Lovers' Month February 11 2015
Libraries: protected places of imagination, thought, magic!
In Bath, Maine, in a building that looks a little bit like a castle, stands the Patten Free Library. It is named after the two visionaries, brothers, who recognized the cultural significance of a Library in a community. They contributed a house for the collection of books. It’s fun to go there with its many nooks and crannies and comfy seating places in which to curl up and get lost in reading ideas, stories, and poetry of authors from around the world. After the Patten brothers many contributed to the building of the building and the collection. The original establishment came with the stipulation that the library be free to all Bath citizens.
This little library is like many dotting the terrain of small towns across the United States. Andrew Carnegie contributed large portions of his wealth to ensure that there be libraries in every town. Like the Patten Free Library, all libraries have cultural events, puppet shows, plays, story hours, reading groups, book clubs.
What is it about libraries, anyway? They are alluring. They are magical. They are quiet places where thoughts, and fantasies can run in those inside without interruption or unnecessary noise.
Some might say that books are things of the past and tombs for the thoughts of dead people that take up space and deaden new ideas and new thoughts. Those people might be right, and librarians can sometimes cling to the past and condescend in their attitudes, or look down on the living as much more annoying than the thinkers of the past who left us with their thoughts written down.
On the other hand, libraries used properly, libraries like the Patten Free Library, develop and encourage new ideas through the available study of already existing ideas. They stimulate culture and artistic activities, perhaps best of all, they stimulate the imaginations of all, especially young people.
Going into the Patten Free Library is like stepping into a limitless world of possibility. It asks for reverence in keeping the quiet atmosphere protected with one’s own self-discipline. It offers moments of solitude and self-reflection, considered through the stories, poetry and thoughts of others. Young people can gallop through the lands of Robin Hood, King Arthur, Benjamin Franklin, Robinson Caruso, and think about space travel, science experiments, math puzzles, quilt making, painting, and model building without spending a nickel or having to go anywhere but to the library. Fantastic possibilities!
Adults, too, can find retreat from the noisy world of daily life, investigate new options, look into building homes, discover how to handle a canoe, learn how to cook, rejoice in rich poetry and study writing for developing their own style, all because of a library.
The founding thinkers of the American Revolution understood the importance of free access to information and the need for an educated, informed citizenry for a thriving democracy. Benjamin Franklin cultivated the original idea of a lending library to ensure that this educated citizenry not dwindle to only those of a class who could afford to purchase books, but to ensure that all could participate, rich and poor alike.
Our own Library Lady comes from the imagination of understanding the importance of ideas, of sharing ideas, and of all having access to those ideas free of charge to keep democracy alive, conversation lively, and everyone’s imaginations strong and active for new ideas and healthy children and adults. She shares ideas, points to the good ideas of others, gives parents and teachers ideas, and celebrates ideas everywhere. Without libraries the Library Lady could no exist.
Hail to libraries, then, that stand as quiet sentries protecting the rights of all to gain access to the ideas of the world! Libraries that offer refuge from the mad rush of daily life; Libraries that celebrate the ideas of writers, artists, actors, musicians, puppeteers and readers everywhere; Libraries that care for books and the ideas they hold, and for people who care for these ideas. Hail to libraries!
Libraries we salute you! You who protect the rights if us all, no matter the age or level of wealth we might be enjoying, to discover ideas, to invent our own, and to quietly, inwardly ponder. Without you, our libraries, we would all be poor, indeed!