Long live the library,. No matter what the internet makes available to us digitally, no matter what happens to publishers or publishing, no matter what the Old Rich White Man of the Week has to say about their lack of usefulness to them— long live the library.
Often referred to as cathedrals of knowledge—and free ones, at that since Benjamin Franklin invented the modern version we all know so well in our communities —large and small, libraries remain civic and cultural icons within their communities where visitors can do everything from read international publications and learn computer skills to launch a business idea.
And kids can still read great works of literature or comic books, or magazines, or schoolbooks, or science and technology books, soaking up a culture built over centuries that cannot be equalled by any technological innovation on your device.
My local library as a kid, The Johnson Memorial Library in Hicksville Ohio was my daily entertainment in post war America when people didn’t have scads of money but revered reading. The library was 5 doors from my house—how fortunate was that? and on hot summer days it had air conditioning that we didn’t have at home. These various factors conspired to keep me in my seat reading The Readers Digest Condensed books of the classics and my favorite, the Classics Illustrated which as an artist was a very important source of the best illustrators in the country that were my first art instructors right there for free as Goldie Bellknap fed my curiosity and hunger to know things beyond my four walls at home. (see me here in my hometown library in 1960 in this brief video clip):
I could follow Robert Ripley to Darkest Africa and Norman Rockwell to hometown America, all in the space of a couple of hours or heaven, every day, right at my fingertips, 200 paces away.
The United States today is falling behind the rest of the world in Math, science, and especially reading and cognitive skills, the basic fundamental of all educational attainment. We are now ranked 14th in the world, way behind countries such as Finland, Denmark, South Korea, New Zealand and even Canada who ranks about 10 places above us in these essential skills in a world where our kids are in competition with these people who are beating our pants off. Don’t blame the politicians, look in the mirror, blame ourselves for allowing this to happen.
Reading not only exposes one to new knowledge, it also is a great avenue to self-improvement. It aids in more effective communication, gain awareness of other cultures, boost imaginations and creativity and most importantly reading is the gateway to advancement. It also is usually done in silence.
In silence, you seek for more; in silence, your brain is clear and focused. Thus, you learn and grow, and therefore you feel and see from the point of view of the author about everything in life. Hence you shape a better self.
And one of the most delightful reading experiences we can have is poetry. It allows the imagination to soar, to connect the human heart to the human condition, and feel what others feel.
In the great libraries, poetry has always had honored real estate on the shelf. The great works of Shakespeare, Milton, Cummings, Wolfe, Anjelou, and , yes, Dr. Seuss can be plucked there.
And I’m very proud to add to this fine tradition with the book Kiril Alcaev and I are producing—Dreamcams & SlammerWhams, brash unapologetic poetry for young readers who love words.