Friday, 3 February 2012

Public libraries - what a good use of taxpayer money!

I’ve read a couple of autobiographies/memoirs in recent months in which the author has had his (yes they are both males) life transformed as a result of discovering the public library.

One was Jack Marshall’s memoir “From Baghdad to Brooklyn- Growing up in a Jewish-Arabic family in Midcentury America” 

Marshall grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He is the son of Jewish parents whose linguistic heritage was Arabic. (His mother was from Aleppo, Syria, his father from Baghdad, Iraq.)
Marshall discovered a world beyond his circumspect background when he discovered the Brooklyn library.

The other was “Learning to die in Miami. The confessions of a refugee boy” by Carlos Eire.  Carlos was one of the 14,000 “Peter Pan” children from Cuba who were airlifted to the United States between 1960 and 1962  

Cut off from his family, culture and heritage Carlos was more or less left adrift in the Greater Miami area.  He is first fostered by a caring anglo family.  When it becomes clear that his mother will never be able to leave Cuba (after the awful “Bay of Pigs invasion – ill conceived and mismanaged by JFK and his administration), Carlos has to leave this home, only to be more or less warehoused with other refugee children in another foster home – a place of deprivation and misery.  Carlos moves towards personal freedom and emancipation when he too discovers a public library in Miami.

Indeed, let’s hear it for our public libraries. They are terrific institutions.

Of course I have an android based “tablet”.  I have used it to download books (most recently for my trip to Australia). I am not opposed to e-books.

But I love to go to one or other of the Sarasota County FL public libraries. (I live about equidistant from three of them  [North Library, Fruitville Library and Selby Library] – I should be so lucky!

In these libraries I can wander and browse the stacks and then take out books which I might never have encountered otherwise, (those by Marshall and Eire being prime examples).

The books that I borrow often help me to become a more informed citizen and voter. And they introduce me to worlds which otherwise would have been beyond my ken.

So it is that I express my gratitude for the “gift” of public libraries, and at the same time hope that our cities and/or counties will fund them “to the max”.

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