A Country Without Libraries

Charles Simic

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
—Groucho Marx

“All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak.“The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

“I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home. Not just some thriller or serious novel, but also big art books and recordings of everything from jazz to operas and symphonies.”

Read full article here.

Charles Simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. He has published twenty collections of his own poetry, five books of essays, a memoir, and numerous books of translations. He has received many literary awards for his poems and his translations, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize, and the MacArthur Fellowship. Voice at 3 A.M., his selected later and new poems, was published in 2003 and a new book of poems, My Noiseless Entourage, came out in the spring of 2005. His new e-book is titled Confessions of a Poet Laureate.” (From The New York Review of Books)

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One Response to “A Country Without Libraries”
  1. depelton says:

    Here’s a comment one of Simic’s readers added after his article in the NY Review of Books:

    “Through a new, national project called LibrariUS, people have been telling us about the role of libraries in their lives. Many have shared stories similar to Mr. Simic’s, about how libraries helped them explore their curiosities early on, or got them through school. Others say they can’t afford books and Internet now, and would be without, if not for libraries. Check out what else brings people to the library, or tell us how you use the library. Put your local library on the LibrariUS map at http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/librarius/.”

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