Friday, July 1, 2016


                                                          Ray Bradbury
     The library has been a repository of our knowledge waiting for anyone curious enough to make the effort to educate and entertain oneself.  Yet what has happened to our public libraries?  Many communities fail to realize that it is more than the story hour that keeps the kids entertained now and then.  It has become access for those who apply for jobs who have no computer access.  It has become a way to build the resume that is needed to go after more than a burger flipping job for many.  It is a cool place of refuge for some who swelter in the heat of non air conditioned homes, giving them something to profit by while they get through the worst time of day.
     But what has been the real reason that libraries exist is the repository of history and knowledge at very little cost.  But has this vital function been lost?  I am afraid that with the advance of 'library science' the true purposes have been lost in favor of the contemporary uses that look so much better than repositories of a communities past.
     Museums are not always set up or even considered to provide facilities for study.  So the library fills this void.  Museums give visual preservation of history, libraries hold the text.  Books are looked at by many as old fashioned and the new popular services seem to have taken the forefront.  This is a tragedy.
     Simple economics put libraries at risk because the priorities for funding are not at the top of priority of most cities.  Books are expensive.  And there is now a standard set that if a book is not checked out within a certain period of time, it is sold.  I have a problem with this as a blanket policy.
     Fiction and other books that have an entertainment value is fine to put such a standard on, but history is not.  Books that cost $29 and up are taken off the shelf and sold for fifty cents.  Many extensive history volumes are in sets and very expensive.  Money is always a problem.  Space for many is critical, but I have a problem with the loss of many texts that should be a part of permanent collections.
     Quite a few years ago a high school had inherited the set of annuals that tracked the class histories of that school.  In the fervor of converting space for other uses the entire set was thrown out.  Not offered to a public library or even offered for sale.
     I just brought home four sacks of books that were eliminated from our local library.  I was relieved that it was not any critical books that should have been kept.  But they did fit into my library.  In the course of doing research for my book I have been buying used books like crazy.  Normally I never flat out name names but, in this circumstance it is to make my point.  Also this is what has brought my ire to write on this particular subject.
     I received a used book by a respected historian.  Many of his books are not available anymore and some are just out of my budget.  Normally I do not try to buy collectible books for an investment I am looking for information.  However, this volume is now one of my prized possession because of the following:  The book is a first edition number 357 of the first one thousand copies and is autographed such:   BEST WISHES TO THE IOLA PUBLIC LIBRARY FROM LESLIE LINNVILLE.
     There should be the appreciation by an institution for the gift of such a volume and being it is a history book of the region, should be part of a permanent collection.  Education does not end at the door of the classroom.  Education only begins there.  The availability of information is a serious responsibility of an institution such as a library.
     I personally have a problem and there are several others I know that have the same problem.  We have libraries or collections that we do not want to see boxed into beer flats and sold for a dollar apiece at our estate auction.  We need an archival library that will value and be responsible curators of the knowledge we have collected.  And this needs to be available for researchers and writers.  But we cannot find an institution that we can count on conserving and preserving for others.
     Many times a community can be reflected in the importance and care of their library.  Many small towns have the desire to have a nice library but cannot afford it.  It is the lucky few that take such a serious responsibility to provide an experience and be a repository of the community information, attitude, and literacy.
     Many think that pioneers and frontiersman were illiterate and had no education.  It is noted by several serious authors that at the cow camp there may be a man that could only sign with an X and the next a graduate of Harvard.  Reading material was the most prized items of the early years of this country.  When limited to weight and size the volumes that were carried along down the trail were of the best quality.
     In early settlements one of the early things organized were reading groups and book clubs.  Many a small settlement had a proud collection of books in their library that may only number a dozen or two.  But they were proud and had quality.  Newspapers were passed around until everyone had its use and then you find them in or on walls as wall paper or insulation.  Unpacking old trunks and boxes is more fun when the items are wrapped in news print of the time.
     If there is a challenge that I would put forth to all libraries and communities, make a part of the collection a permanent collection.  At some point the information will be invaluable.  It is not the value of a history item that it must see a minimum number of check outs.  It is the value of the information contained and not lost for that one time it is needed.
     In this new age of electronic whiz bang devices and short term capacity to hold attention there is still a place that should be a priority to hold the information of our past as our most valuable possession.

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