I love libraries.
I have six items checked out right now. I’ve got Finnegan’s Wake, which I really have no intention of reading. I’ve picked up My Antonia by Willa Cather, which I have an earnest and hopeful intention of reading. For a film paper due today at 3 p.m., (and I should really, really get going on that) I’m the proud temporary owner of Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges, Intrepid Laughter: Preston Sturges and the Movies, and The Lady Eve (1941)—you guessed it, a Preston Sturges romantic comedy. I’m also the semi-permanent owner of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. I’ve had it since mid-July. If you want it, I’m willing to lend it out to you for a couple days.
Why the long, peak into the life of Ryan intro? Are you that dry on column ideas? C’mon, just bust out something on the Fetty Wap motorcycle accident or how Garth Brooks lost six months worth of new material because his “phone fried.” We’ve worked with less.
So I was strolling through the seedy shelves of O’Neill’s Banned Book Week on Tuesday. There was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings stamped “Satanic.” It was joined by a host of other literary classics—Huck Finn, A Farewell to Arms, basically any book you read or pretended to read in high school, and basically 66 percent (get it?) of the English Lit canon. And so I was working my way around the shelves, and a couple chuckles escaped, and I got some weird looks. People looked up from their laptops and desktops they were printing their readings and study guides off. “Chill,” they seemed to say. “This is the library.”
I know how to chill. I have lots of chill. In high school I used to take highway 141 to Big Bend on Friday afternoons to Grand Glaize, my local library. Blockbuster had effectively closed. So I’d request any movies I wanted to watch, and the St. Louis County Library would deliver. Always. And O’Neill has delivered for me in different ways—obscure screwball comedies have appeared, the comic book section is a dear friend, and JSTOR is one of the most consistent things in my life. O’Neill may not fit into the cool, hip gothic aesthetic we’ve gone for as a school, but it’s big where it counts—on the inside.
It may not be as visceral, but I’d bet all the money in my pocket that more money from your tuition goes to maintaining our libraries than it does our wonderful, perfect grass. And it’s the libraries that do the real work of our University—housing, cataloging, engaging knowledge. There’re more books on the fourth floor of O’Neill than anyone could hope to read in five lifetimes. I know I’m getting excited. “Chill,” you’re probably thinking.
But I won’t, not this time. We take our libraries for granted. Yes, O’Neill is a place to print stuff and one of the few places on campus where people are socially forced to chill. But it’s also a place with really clever exhibits, any book (or movie) you’ll ever need or even want to read, and people who want to help you get there. If you want to watch 22 Jump Street, you can find it in the library. If you really want to read everything ever written about Shakespeare, you can find it in the library.
You should go to the library, like right now, because one day soon we’ll be sending our kids up to a Martian colony, and we’ll be watching movies in tiny cubicles with the action projected straight to our orbital sensors. Soon, all the books in the world will reside in the laptop/Ipad/Kindle/whatever Amazon makes next, and you won’t be able to walk through a maze of corridors full of pages upon pages, of all the written knowledge we’ve amassed in 4,000 odd years as a species up to this point.
That’s all a long way away, hopefully. But in a year from now, in all likelihood, when I graduate, I won’t have the BC library for all my epistemological needs. I won’t have the OED to look up what epistemological means. I’ll be back to the local library, which is still cool, but it’s not awesome.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor