I’ve noticed an apocalyptic atmosphere has permeated the mindset of more than a few library folk pondering the future of libraries and cannot imagine it is entirely related to recent popularity surges in dystopic YA literature. Upon entering one south suburban public library recently, I felt an urge to manually shut my gaping mouth. The foyer (if you will) is stories high, endless in square footage, and enveloped with more glass than the Louvre. Stunning? Absolutely. Overkill? Of course it is; to someone who believes the mass exodus from and therefore subsequent end of the library as we know it is nigh. It seems unreasonable to spend already scarce dollars on fanciful buildings to house ill-fated manuscripts. Surely, there are more important things for society to build. Maybe a new strip mall just inches away from already abandoned ones? Did anyone say coffee shops? While no architectural expert, I would suggest that the increasing number of contemporary library spaces boasting impressive price tags speaks volumes. There’s still an outside chance that libraries are doing alright. On the other hand, to the catastrophe seeker, such spending makes for shameful waste in a time with only one apparent certainty: library mortality is imminent. The party is over.
So be it! Car per diem, or is it carpe diem? Sempre Fi? Siempre fiel? Who can say? Alas, I shall prepare for mine end. Woe to he who dares wish be in a shelf-lined fallout shelter donning a scraggly, Howard Hughes-esque beard and early Roman Empire garb (shiver). I, for one, have chosen not to ignore the copious patron masses that frequent these new library spaces. None need tell my family I love them and am hoarding countless first editions, many of which are self-help volumes to ease my transition into a loathsome, lackluster, library-less shell of a world. Perhaps a day will come when mean-spirited, torch-wielding, cyborgs with melting faux-flesh enter our sanctuaries to destroy all who read have come to champion. Nevertheless, I will not go shhhhingly into those dark stacks. Hear me, faithful library servant, I feign no shame in sharing my last crumb with the likes of Despereaux, in shedding one last tear over the quintessential relationship troubled, in breathing the last collective breath of gallant protagonists lost. No, I shall with constant vigilance continue fighting for freedom of the intellectual kind until that shiny, circuit driven, skeletal hand punches through four stories of plate glass bellowing “You are terminated!”
Image from http://www.spl.org/locations/central-library