The Post-Gazette's Big Kahuna himself , David Shribman, dedicated his weekly column to a subject near and dear to our hearts – public libraries. It seems some libraries are contemplating replacing underutilized classics with modern hot properties to conserve shelf space. Ick! Shribman correctly points out the damage this move can cause:
Some of the slow-moving books in the Fairfax library system remain of incalculable value to humankind and remain the foundation stones of our civilization.
The fact that no one has recently checked them out does mean no one should be able to do so.
I am a huge fan of the Carnegie Library. I visit my little branch in Woods Run (Brighton Heights) on a weekly basis. Thanks to the power of the network, I have access to a million titles without having to head into Oakland (another mighty fine but hard to access library). Right now my library tote bag contains a coffee table book written by U2, a few paperback mysteries, several movies (including Akeelah and the Bee), a novel by Margaret Atwood, and a book on contemporary etiquette dilemnas by Emily Posts's granddaughter. I pick stuff up like the last item when I browse around the new releases tables — things I would never buy, but might like to read. Last week, I checked out the book on children's etiquette written by Whoopi Goldberg just because I wanted to see what it was like.
What I haven't been is attentive to are the classics I'm always claiming to want to read. While I doubt my modern tastes have been making a serious dent in the library circulation, Shribman's point is well-made. I last read Aristotle, Plato and Tolstoy in graduate school; Alice Walker, Thoreau and Willa Cather were even further back in my academic history. Perhaps its time to dust off my acquaintance with the books that made me think beyond the limits of my own experiences. What a lofty pledge!
Another excellent thing about the Carnegie Library – they provide us access to books that others might not want us to read. We have a great little book on our coffee table (under the 8 zillion magazines) title “And Tango Makes Three” that tells the true tale of two gay male penguins who are raising their own chick. It was a source of contention in school libraries that quivered at the hands of the mighty right wingnuts and their gay hostility. While school libraries debate censorship, the Carnegie Library has multiple copies at your disposal.