Somhow those Ten Men — at the time they were called Recruiters, of course — discovered that Constance had been at the library. Most likely one of their informants saw her come out, because it was on that very day that the brutes showed up and threatened the librarians. Who told them nothing, incidentally.”The same thing happened in Holland,’ Kate reflected. ‘You’d think these guys would learn their lesson — librarians know how to keep quiet.”It helps to ask politely,’ said Mr. Benedict
Words have power, you understand? It is in the nature of our universe. Our library itself distorts time and space on quite a grand scale. Well, when the Post Office started accumulating letters, it was storing words. In fact, what was being created was what we call a ‘gevaisa’, a tomb of living words.
I . . . hurried to the city library to find out the true age of Chicago. City library! After all, it cannot be anything but Chicagoesque. His is the richest library, no doubt, as everything in Chicago is great in size and wealth. Its million books are filling all the shelves, as the dry goods fill the big stores. Oh, librarian, you furnished me a very good dinner, even ice cream, but—where is the table? The Chicago city library has no solemnly quiet, softly peaceful reading-room; you are like a god who made a perfect man and forgot to put in the soul; the books are worth nothing without having a sweet corner and plenty of time, as the man is nothing without soul. Throw those books away, if you don’t have a perfect reading-room! Dinner is useless without a table. I want to read a book as a scholar, as I want to eat dinner as a gentleman. What difference is there, my dearest Chicago, between your honourable library and the great department store, an emporium where people buy things without a moment of selection, like a busy honey bee?The library is situated in the most annoyingly noisy business quarter, under the overhanging smoke, in the nearest reach of the engine bells of the lakeside. One can hardly spend an hour in it if he be not a Chicagoan who was born without taste of the fresh air and blue sky. The heavy, oppressive, ill-smelling air of Chicago almost kills me sometimes. What a foolishness and absurdity of the city administrators to build the office of learning in such place of restaurants and barber shops!Look at that edifice of the city library! Look at that white marble! That’s great, admirable; that means tremendous power of money. But what a vulgarity, stupid taste, outward display, what an entire lacking of fine sentiment and artistic love! Ah, those decorations with gold and green on the marble stone spoil the beauty! What a shame! That is exactly Chicagoesque. O Chicago, you have fine taste, haven’t you?
It was a high ceilinged room with tall, large-panes windows. Apart from the doorway was the desk where book had been checked out in days when books were still being checked out. He stood there for a moment looking around the silent room, shaking his head slowly. All these books, he thought, the residue of a planet’s intellect, the scrapings of futile minds, the leftovers, the potpourri of artifacts that had no power to save men from perishing.
The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions-there we have none.
Plenty of patrons had asked me strange things, but this was the first who asked me where my car was parked. It was almost comical to look at the man, because he actually thought I was going to tell him. I struggled to come up with a reply, but the best I could muster was, “That’s personal.” What I meant to say was, “Sir, the fact that I work in a public library doesn’t make me stupid, it just makes me poor. There’s no way I’m going to tell you—a psychotic person who could very well have a knife in his pocket—where I have parked my car.
There’s something deep in the heart of every person that wantsto protect culture. The only thing about my pending career thatwas changed because of 9/11 was that I began to see it was the community,not the librarian, that was important to the library. Librarianswere only as important as the community they inspired. If Iwas going to continue with this career, my job wouldn’t be to protectinformation, it would be to bring the community together andinspire them to appreciate everything a library stands for.
A library was nothing without its people. You say library and there’s this iconoclastic image of an old-lady librarian telling people to be quiet and not to run. But the thing was, that lady—that iconoclastic lady—was with us when we cleaned. She wore blue jeans, too. Maybe she was what people thought about when you said library, but she didn’t make the library. People made the library. That’s what made a library. Without them, all the sacredness was gone. It was just a building with books.