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Meet me in the poetry section


Fri, Nov 21st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

I must confess, I was a nerdy little kid. I didn't much like other kids; they always wanted to play outside, go to the park, and organize teams and clubs. My family forced me to answer the door when kids came to play, and made me go outside at least once a summer. I probably creeped them out a little, hanging around the house night and day, reading anything available. I recall a hefty leather-back titled "Morals and Dogma" on the shelf. I had no idea what it was about but treasured the weight and importance of its stature.

I loved the library and was lucky enough to grow up in Minneapolis at a time when I could walk to three or four libraries when I was old enough to cross the streets. One of them was a small library that was specifically for children's books. I had ambitions about taking the whole thing on before I got too old to sit on the wee chairs. My personal Olympic Dream.

Librarians were strict then. They sat at those wooden desks and hand stamped due dates on cards. The only sounds were the constant kathump of those rubber stampers and an occasional "shh!" It was heaven.

So let's hear some applause for librarians. They know much more than the Dewy Decimal System. (Do they have to memorize that like chemists memorize periodic tables?) Librarians know almost everything. They at least know how to help you find out about everything. If we pay attention, we will see librarians are holding the line of defense for our patriotic right to privacy and information against the insult of recent federal violations in the guise of National Security. Now, librarians are not known to fight like mine workers in a strike but I would caution against trying their patience with intellectual property.

Everything we know for sure, everything we hope to know or speculate might be true is available through our library systems. Words that have, like messages in a bottle, carried over the centuries and stayed true, are waiting for their curious audience. And, it's all free to the user. It costs about three dollars for a cup of coffee to keep us awake on the way to work, but all the worlds knowledge is out there for us to borrow, contemplate, discuss, disagree with or endorse and expand upon. Except for the sky above and the air we breathe (some corporate giant is likely to find a way to own those soon) there is precious little that is of such value, so eager to be consumed.

When we moved here, before I saw the house my husband had fallen in love with, I checked on the internet where the closest library would be. There it was, a perfect brick building that I knew was full of words I had yet to read and access to the larger, rich, Minnesota collection. There was much to offer in this loveliest corner of the state, but a library close by was my basic requirement.

Now, our Rushford Library is struggling to raise money and enthusiasm to create a new, modern facility for the generations yet to come. The budget goal is $2,000,000. People spend that much to build homes that are ostentatious and often ugly, that will serve nobody but the utility companies that heat and light them. Two million for a facility that will illuminate all of us, our kids and great grandkids seems a good investment. Imagine the things the kids of 2025 can read about there. Imagine kids learning languages on a computer to launch into their future and curling up with the great books that inform them of life in the past and the lessons that apply over and over again.

Support this library and libraries in general. When, in a thousand years, archeologists dig up the remains of our culture, let's not have them find the grandest structures were shopping malls and insurance buildings, but schools and libraries. They can then conclude that we were a curious mammal, that we used our primate brains. The alternative will be that we shopped ourselves into extinction. How embarrassing would that be?

You can watch for updates on the project by looking at the library website or better yet, stop in, browse, bring the kids, donate a book or two and drop a dollar into the piggy bank that Susan has on the counter. Before buying a wall size plasma screen TV for the kids' bedroom, help buy them a new library.

When the biggest pick up lines were "What's your sign?" or "You come here often?" a wise young man might have sought out the lonely girl and whispered, "I'll be at the library, meet me in the poetry section." Ok, it wouldn't make a great movie but perhaps a more informed culture. Winter is coming, load up on some good reading!

Beadrin Youngdahl lives in Peterson. She can be reached at beadrin@aol.com

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