A decent portion of my formative years was spent in the local library where, due to being English born in the seventies, my innocence was cruelly shattered by George Orwell. I don’t think Orwell or Golding is on the syllabus for eleven year olds these days, but for a sensitive soul like myself, the novels 1984 and Animal Farm ruined my taste for literature thereafter, but just being in a library now feels like home. My mother was an avid reader and our weekly trips to the library I will never forget, but sadly I don’t remember reading anything after being assaulted by Lord of the Flies, except for a feeble attempt at some Jane Austen and a lot of Oscar Wilde. Thanks to George, I switched to non-fiction.
I’ve been making up for it recently, not with Jane Austen, but with Annie Proulx who has astounded me with The Shipping News, after which I started to write in very short sentences. Had to stop. Was getting ridiculous. The first novel I read in America was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I couldn’t put down and read in one evening. After that, I bought everything I could by Hunter Thompson. The subtle humor and cynicism of Edith Wharton was not lost on me either and I have read everything of hers in the last ten years too. That’s one thing we British love the best, sarcasm.
If you’re up on your current affairs, you may have noticed that nobody likes the new Secretary of Education, so I have a suggestion for you. If you really care about educating young people, donate to your local library.
Most local libraries lend books, music and movies, but there are some miraculous libraries out there that lend tools, bicycles, equipment and more. As we use up a frightening amount of the world’s natural resources at an ever-increasing rate, borrowing books, tools and gear is the perfect way to reduce production and consumption. More important, a library is free education for everyone, not only children. Here is a local resource that benefits everyone. Furthermore, because not everyone is assured decent internet access in this day and age, the library provides free online services that are a lifeline for people without it who are looking for jobs or filing for unemployment. I’ve donated about a third of my books to the local library and, if I want to read any of them again, I will just go back and borrow them. It’s a way to share but not lose the book forever, like when your friend borrows your favorite book and barefacedly pretends you never gave it to her, thus sullying that relationship forever. According to the ALA, which advocates for “intellectual freedom” among other things, the majority of library funding comes from state and local sources, with federal funding making up any shortfall. My local library, Skene Memorial Library in Fleischmanns was established in 1901 by Annette W. L. Van der Wegen Skene, an immigrant from Belgium whose husband was a childhood friend of Andrew Carnegie who donated $5000 towards the building of the library. In 1928, it became a municipal library after having been deeded to the village.
I’ve been treasuring this place lately as I write my novel, tapping away on my laptop, absorbing the atmosphere in quiet reverence as if I’m literally soaking up all the fabulous words floating around and because I took out a book by Mark Twain in 2014 and have been checking it out ever since. Support your local library!