Monday, February 2, 2009

Revolutionary Acts

I'm such a rebel. You know what I did today? I went to the library. I wanted to read "The Dystopians" by Ben McGrath in the January 26, 2009 edition of The New Yorker. Now, any self-respecting, middle-class, middle-age suburbanite would dive down to the local big-box bookstore and score a personal copy. But, for a number of reasons, I've been trying to use the library more. I won't bore you with all the details about my struggles with clutter, or wanting my to walk on errands rather than drive, and issues like that. No, I want to reflect on community.

One of the things that made America great was our creation and support of public institutions. Things like public schools, public parks, mass transit systems, waterworks and libraries. We are letting all that slip away. We buy our books online, we drive our own cars rather than take the train, we send our kids to private schools, we build playgrounds in every backyard, we even buy individual servings of water in plastic bottles.

The time has come to see that we can't go it alone much longer. We can't continue to pretend to support the public sphere while trying to do everything on our own. We can't pay both taxes and pay for private replacements for things the community used to provide to everyone. We need to pull together again. If we all use and value our public spaces we will value them more and take better care of them. If we spend less selfishly on ourselves, we will have more to contribute to the public good, and we will all be better for it.

Be a revolutionary. Borrow your next book from your library, take your kid to the park and drink a glass of tap water.


RuthieJ said...

I've been using my local public library a lot this past year. And they have an on-line search system, so even if they don't have the library book (or CD or DVD) I'm looking for, it can come from another library and I just pick it up locally. I think a lot of people just don't have any idea of how many resources are available through their public library.

robin andrea said...

I hadn't quite thought about it in the terms you use here about the decline of our public sphere in the interest and support of the private. You have it absolutely right. It is about the loss of community. And the library is so essentially a community space. We've been using our library quite a bit lately. In fact, we're heading there today. We need a new revolution.

greentangle said...

I've always been a big fan of libraries and considered MLS programs a few times.

Library hours and jobs have been cut here, and for the past couple months I've been doing volunteer shelving which I love but had doubts about doing since it used to be someone's paid job.

I'm thinking of offering to do it full time for free in a few months in exchange for a place to sleep for my cat and I but I don't think they'll go for it.