Friday, January 05, 2007

We Must Burn the Libraries in Order to Save Them

So, yeah, I hate to wade too far deeply into an issue that's been gnawed at my betters in the bloggo-spherica, but I couldn't let this get away without some attention.

So typical Band Camp! All those dusty oldies on the library shelves are totally harshing their hard-earned Band-Campian mellow. And they've got just the perfect reason to start banishing the classics from their shelves--no one's reading them anymore! No one's checking them out! And, of course, to their soft-serv ice cream Band Camp brains, the ONLY PROBLEM INDICATED BY THESE SYMPTOMS is a lack of shelf space! Well, can you really argue with the inexorable logic of a rampaging blowtorch when it tells you it's gonna burn some shit?

I pretty much stand firmly in the Kriston camp on this issue. And I say that despite the dearth of conversations I've had with Kriston that run in the fusty old way Tom describes. I personally like any conversation with KC to either end with him drunkenly shouting "Woo-hoo! Hook 'em! Hook 'em, bitches!" or with me saying something totally innocent that will set events in motion that will inevitably prevent him from getting laid. In either scenario, I feel like you're reaching the full Cappsian potential, which is clearly present in his take on the Band Camp Library Matter when he writes "...because he's William Fucking Faulkner." Precisely: the man wrote Pylon, Band Camp County, so you just shut up, sit down and pay William Fucking Faulkner some goddamn respect.

Libraries are not mere end results of public policy or tax allocations. Hell no! They are INSTITUTIONS! They collect not just books and periodicals and microfiches--they house the very shared values that bind our society--indeed: the shared values that informed our particular version of civilization itself. To walk into a library is to walk into an institution that houses our societal protoplasm--the stuff that built our nation, the wellspring that renews us, the resource that makes it so we don't have to reinvent the fucking wheel year in and year out. The reason we need to keep the classics in there, in spite of their lack of steady circulation, is simple: they've earned their place on those shelves! Take them away, and the value of the institution decreases exponentially.

Even Julian Sanchez, to whom the idea of public good is likely stuck somewhere between a papercut and pure anathema, seems to grok the idea of institutional value when he casts classic literature as the agents of education and the Axis of Steele-Turow-Grisham-Etc. as the avatar of "entertainment" and concludes: " while we can argue the merits of public libraries as a means of subsidizing education, there's no terribly compelling argument for subsidizing people's amusement."

Though, Julian, as Horace said in the Ars Poetica, "Profit AND delight, my friend. Profit and delight."

So, when I hear that a library wants to get rid of some great books that no one is checking out, I wonder: "Why? Seems to me that replacing these books with ones that came out last week that'll fly off the shelves for no particular reason other than novelty is only going to drive up operational costs!" I sorta kid. But, seriously, when Sanchez relates that the classics are available for dirt cheaps on Amazon, to me, this isn't an argument FOR stripping them off the library shelves. Hell no! I say it's an argument for going out and acquiring MORE copies for the libraries! If they're that inexpensive, it's almost irresponsible not to!

It is, after all, William Fucking Faulkner we're talking about. And that newly minted copy of The Ten People You Meet In Mitch Albom's Scrotum is only going to cost you more to put on the shelf, and leave the reader feeling cheap every time it ventures forth.

1 comment:

Mrs. Dementor said...

Isn't this scary? I'm one of those people that will check out ye olde classics, not checked out for years. I treat them with the love and respect they deserve. It makes me want to run into the libraries in Fairfax county and check out all the George Eliot, Plato, Tennessee Williams, Moliere, Eugene O'Neill, et al, just to show what is really important out there in the world of literature. The thought that my beloved Rebecca West novels could be taken off the shelves to make way for a piece of crap is horrifying. Libraries are sacrosanct. And what will replace them? More study cubicles because no one wants to study together at big tables anymore? Do we really need 15 copies of a poorly written flavor of the moment book that will be obsolete in a year? This issue makes me go on a tirade. People complain that kids today aren't well read anymore, so, um, taking away a chance for them to discover a classic piece of literature aids this theory how? What message are these libraries sending?