Let's Hear It for Libraries

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Ray Bradbury is trying to save his local library. Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and zillions of other works is holding a fundraiser to help cash-strapped libraries in Ventura Country, California. In a New York Times profile of Bradbury's library work, Bradbury says, "Libraries raised me." I strongly identify with that remark -- I spent nearly every afternoon at the Venice Public Library in Venice, Florida, for the seven years of middle and high school. I did my homework there, read books there, and volunteered there, shelving and checking in books straight from the return slot (a very Zen practice, if you've never tried it). Hell, when it was time for college I went and got degree in Library Science! So despite my strong interest in all things internet and high-tech, I love the library. Libraries act as both social spaces and repositories of shared wisdom. We need libraries to survive in the digital age, because they are a rare public space devoted to learning and erudition, mixing generations, and providing invaluable research materials (yes, including materials not on the internet -- just try writing a magazine article for mental_floss and you'll realize how quickly you need to turn to actual books in order to do actual research). Anyway, enough of my ranting. The NYT piece on Bradbury's work is inspiring, wacky (he's getting a little kooky in his old age), and worth a few minutes to read. Here's a snippet:

...among Mr. Bradbury's passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, "Fahrenheit 451," which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles, library; his novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes" contains a seminal library scene.

Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H. P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state's public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.

"Libraries raised me," Mr. Bradbury said. "I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."

Read the rest to learn how Bradbury is working for his community. And hopefully we can forgive Bradbury his dismissal of the internet as "meaningless."

How Have Libraries Affected You?

Were you a "library latchkey kid" like me? Do you take your own kids to libraries now? Do you use library reference services? How about online services? (Where I live, the library's online resources -- including online renewal and free research librarian help -- and awesome.) Share your library stories in the comments.

More coverage of libraries on the 'floss: Historical Libraries Closing Nationwide, 8 Library Cats, Quick 10: 10 Surprising Former Librarians, How Big IS The Library of Congress?, How You Organize Your Home Library.

(Ray Bradbury photo courtesy of Flickr user Time Portal, used under Creative Commons license.)

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June 23, 2009 - 10:58am
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