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Summer is Here, Libraries are Here

Insofar as any summer time is spent really thinking (in contrast to sauntering, or pondering, or dozing), it seems to me that a good thing to do is think about libraries. In a first “installment” I’d like to recommend a piece I keep coming back to in thinking about what libraries should be doing (this late thoroughly Googled point in history).  A piece I return to often is “Silence Please” by Sallie Tisdale (pictured below) published in Harper’s Magazine in March 1997.  It is a piece about what libraries are, might become, or should fear at least according to Tisdale.  A key passage from the essay:

This was a place set outside the ordinary day. Its silence–outrageous, magic, unlike any other sound in my life–was a counterpoint to the interior noise in my crowded mind. It was the only sacred space I knew, intimate and formal at once, hushed, potent. I didn’t need to be told this–I felt it. In the library I could hunker down in an aisle, seeing only the words in my lap, and a stranger would simply step over me and bend down for his own book with what I now think of as a rare and touching courtesy.

For me, this is not nostalgia, it’s Tisdale’s testament to what a library is that the rest of the world isn’t: thought as space.  The silence she writes of is sanctuary, the safety of our thoughts manifest as place.  Sanctuary is the justification for libraries as a place, a building, a point on the map.  The silence may be about the quiet or not–it clearly is for Tisdale, but the silence is foremost about the certainty of having a space cut out of reality, the certainty of a space for potent thought. As long as there is a discussion of the need for libraries as buildings, this is the trump card… 

~ by pdoty on .

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