Monday, September 08, 2008

Books and Libraries

I went to the Huntington a few months ago and read this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.

I kept thinking about this quote. I realized how true it is. You get out of a book what you are willing to put into it. Because reading is one of my loves, my passions, I typically get a lot out of books. But I've not read many books lately. I read online, but I'm not reading books. I feel a part of me is missing -- or a good friend is missing.

I was reminded of this quote again when I heard about the fight for Long Beach, California's main library. City officials, facing a general fund deficit of $17 million, had been looking to close the library as a means of saving $4 million a year. Somebody trying to save the library got smart and managed to light a fire and managed to get author Ray Bradbury to speak. Man, I wish I had been there to hear him.

"Without libraries, we have no true education," Ray Bradbury told people at Long Beach's main library on Saturday. (Friday the budget oversight committee recommended instead that the library be closed only on Sundays and Mondays -- maybe they made this decision after the public uproar?)

Bradbury reminded his listeners of how he wrote the first draft of Farenheit 451 on a typewriter that rented for 10 cents a half hour in the basement of a library at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The novel, published in 1951, depicts a future in which books are burned to keep people in ignorance.

Bradbury grew up in a poor family and I have read that he did not have the opportunity to to pursue a formal college education. But he spent four days a week after graduating from high school at the public library, perusing the shelves, reading everything of interest to him, and exploring his own charted higher education. A motivated individual in my mind. What would he have done without a library? What would our society be like without the books?

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