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On Libraries

Why do you love to hang out at the library?

When I was a kid, the library was my refuge from everything annoying—the bullying kids, the meaningless sport plays. The library was a heaven full of books and they were free. I wish I can say that now about the public library. It’s no longer that peaceful place where I could get things done and not be assaulted mentally, sensationally, and olfactorily. Public libraries haven’t been a quiet place for work and research for a long time. They have become video rental stores, nursery, and job centers. In the cities, they are homeless shelters by the time, and generally unkempt. There are some great public libraries still around, mostly in the suburbs, but by large, I’ve given up on them.

That said, I am still supportive of my local library. I rummage through their sale and donate money. I understand the library has an obligation to promote reading and take care of those who are in the need. But the unkempt condition and noise are very frustrating.

4 Responses

  1. I agree about the library being a refuge when I was a child — it was sort of the door to all my fantasy worlds. Thankfully my local library is actually a beautiful, restful and book-filled place that still holds all my childhood favorites — but I know most of them aren’t so nice, especially in the neighborhoods that need them most.

    • I like my local branch but tend to stay away from the main library due to the noise and smell. The branches feature books that reflect the demographic and cultural identities of different neighborhoods. I do enjoy a quiet afternoon on weekend at the library.

  2. I had a tough childhood so I spent most of my non-school hours at the library in Hollywood. It was a tiny little branch with cozy nooks to read in. The librarian stashed Nancy Drew books away for me so I could read them in order. I loved it. In high school, the Glendale Central Library has awesome study cubes. They didn’t have doors but they had these geometric shapes so people could not see you inside and it cut off sound. Nice and quiet. I spent hours in those cubes.

    Now, libraries are social gathering spots for teens which I tend to think is better than them hanging out on the street getting themselves in trouble but we still need quiet spaces. At out university library we have talk zones but they are too close to the quiet zones so you can still hear everything, including he espresso machine churning out drinks.

    I miss the quiet.

    • Librarians are some of the kindest people I have known. I remember my first experience in library when I was a little boy—but very different from yours. The branch was cozy with lots of tables. I was precocious in my reading so I felt timid to browse what they called in Hong Kong the “adult lending library”. I remember the librarian was very kind and understanding. She picked out books for me to read.

      At my work place, down at the stacks, it’s ID-only access so the library is tidy and quiet. Study rooms are available for groups of students so they can chat and discuss without disturbing other patrons.

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