“Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.”
As an MLS student, I’m pretty up on library news. Within the past few weeks I’ve read that the mayor and other town officials in Enfield Connecticut pressured the public library to cancel a screening of Michael Moore’s Sicko.
I read that Governor Brown of California is working on suspending all state funding for public libraries in California.
Even the Queens library, in an effort to salvage the staff and operating hours they have left, announced they can no longer afford to buy new books.
Today I read that the U.S. libraries are not alone in the struggle; apparently Oxfordshire (England) recently announced the proposed closing of 20 out of their 43 public libraries.
This news inspired a speech that was too good not to share.
The speech: Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.
The writer: Philip Pullman, best-selling author of the trilogy His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass, and many other works.
You can read the speech in its entirety here .
Some of my favorite parts are posted below.
On reading, and the treasures of the public library…
“And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?”
“The greedy ghost is everywhere. That office block isn’t making enough money: tear it down and put up a block of flats. The flats aren’t making enough money: rip them apart and put up a hotel. The hotel isn’t making enough money: smash it to the ground and put up a multiplex cinema. The cinema isn’t making enough money: demolish it and put up a shopping mall…The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that’s all he understands… He doesn’t understand libraries at all. That branch – how much money did it make last year? Why aren’t you charging higher fines? Why don’t you charge for library cards? Why don’t you charge for every catalogue search? Reserving books – you should charge a lot more for that. Those bookshelves over there – what’s on them? Philosophy? And how many people looked at them last week? Three? Empty those shelves and fill them up with celebrity memoirs.”
I love the public library service for what it did for me as a child and as a student and as an adult. I love it because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.
I love it for that, and so do the citizens of Summertown, Headington, Littlemore, Old Marston, Blackbird Leys, Neithrop, Adderbury, Bampton, Benson, Berinsfield, Botley, Charlbury, Chinnor, Deddington, Grove, Kennington, North Leigh, Sonning Common, Stonesfield, Woodcote.
Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.”