When I am stuck and struggling, when my pockets aren’t deep enough, when all I can gather is buttons and fluff and paper clips and IOUs and memories of a fiver that somehow disappeared somewhere, somewhen, I like to lop off my limbs.
My left leg was the first to go, swiftly followed by my right. My left arm went in a moment of vending machine desperation, as moths fluttered out of my purse, taunting me with a trail of grey babies. We have to do what we have to do to survive. I held on to my right arm for some time. It is my most useful limb, and I have the fondest memories of it, but in the end it went with the rest, cashing in enough for a muffin and a macchiato on the sort of rainy day we were taught to save for.
This is the madness happening behind our backs, but bigger. Our brains are being melted down and sold in bricks as books burn in the background, and we’re letting it happen, wandering sleepily into a world where knowledge is no longer free.
We are turning out library lights.
We are losing our minds.
The mistake that we make is thinking that libraries have a price, that there is an amount of money large enough to meet the return a working library would provide. These buildings are not brick and mortar book houses, but homes. A library is a home for books, a home for people, a home for ideas. We are selling histories and futures as if they are made of stone.
Reading is about learning and exploring and discovering. It’s about fact and beauty and magic. It’s about seeing in new ways, seeing in old ways, speaking to the dead and the living, the wrong and the right, it’s about the freedom to know the truth and the lies and to decide for ourselves, to not be told and take it.
Reading is time travel, it’s telepathy, it’s rebellion, it’s remembering, it’s the greatest thing that you will ever learn to love. When you are lost in a book, you are in the safest kind of danger, and when you are lost in a library, you find yourself amongst the stacks, trailing inky fingers over dusty hardbacks, cracking spines that have forgotten what it feels like to be open, discovering sentences that haven’t been read by living eyes. In a library, we can be Columbus, Neil Armstrong, Isaac Newton.
We need this knowledge as much as we need our limbs. We need libraries more than the cash it will save to close them. As Anne Herbert said, “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”
We need to stand up and stop what is happening, to let the world know that our libraries are our limbs, and that they are not for sale.