One of the first things I do when I move to a different town, after pooping in my new bathroom to establish dominance, but usually before setting up my Home Alone style security system of painful and hilarious traps, is find the local public library. I know what you’re thinking. Public Libraries? Aren’t they where homeless people go to shave and have sex? Yes. Yes they are. But that’s not ALL they’re good for! It turns out, they also have books! That you can take home and read! For FREE! How cool is that? Seriously, for comparison, museums are neat because you can go look at art made by famous artists, and maybe sometimes you’re allowed take shitty pictures with your smartphone, but it’s generally frowned upon if you try to take the art home with you. At a library however, you can load up a wagon full of your favorite author’s artistic creations, and roll the teetering mound right past the librarian’s desk and out the front door, and they’re okay with it! If you don’t think that’s just the coolest thing, then I’m afraid we have very little in common, and I likely won’t invite you to my funeral.
As a bibliophilic young gentleman who has moved multiple times, I have become acquainted with several different public libraries, and I have found them all to contain a fascinating collection of similarities and differences. These serve to make them true microcosmic reflections of the community in which they are located. Sometimes libraries, mostly in towns with an overabundance of geriatric AARP members, feel like mausoleums, and are usually full of musty air, looming stacks of yellowing books lit by flickering fluorescent lights, archaic microfiche machines, and bewildering Dewey decimal based organization systems. These twilight zoned holdovers from the literary paleolithic are inevitably populated by warty, slow-moving librarians so ancient that they’re still offended by the adoption of the new-fangled moveable type printing press over hand-written tomes as the en vogue publication method. Other libraries, in more fashionable locations, are trendier, with brightly lit, open floor plans, popular childhood reading programs, cafes, generous WiFi, and edgy young employees with hipster-chic tattoos and/or bad facial hair. Yet more libraries, usually in college campuses, are full of adderalled out, desperate and sleep deprived young men and women, feverishly trying to cram a year’s worth of information into one evening of study while their peers hump rapidly with varying degrees of discretion in the little visited corners of the genealogical archives section.
Regardless of whether your local public library is a forbidding repository of ancient wisdom, a semi-secret hookup spot, or a vibrant cornerstone of community recreation, it is nearly impossible to over-exaggerate their importance. The sad fact is that most people get the majority of their information from, or express their personal opinions via cartoonish memes on the internet. Unfortunately, it is a well documented, irrefutably proven fact that every time you like or share an “informative” meme on the internet, you lose at least two IQ points, and move the human race one step closer to a well deserved extinction. Not only are these idiotic click-bait “factoids” unforgivably biased and usually downright wrong, they are by necessity un-nuanced, simplistic, and incomplete. No matter what your opinion on a matter is, I guarantee you that you cannot fully prove your point via a tweet or with one or two seemingly startling “statistics” or “facts” printed over a picture of the American Flag. There is always, always, ALWAYS additional pertinent information. Information you are missing by relying on such an ADD/ADHD style of information sharing. That is why we need Libraries more than ever.
In the hyper-saturated, shallow, social-media driven world in which we live, we need access to the rest of the information. We need the deep knowledge. We need the second, third, or fourth opinion. We need to make our decisions based off of the accumulated wisdom of hundreds and thousands of people far smarter than us, who came by their opinions, beliefs, and theories after exhaustive amounts of dedicated research.
The Gettysburg Address, one of the most iconic speeches ever created, presented by one of the greatest orators to ever reside in the White House, at a mere 272 words, is incredibly short, but because it was cautiously researched, well thought out, premeditated, and written by a learned, intelligent, intellectual man who frequented libraries, it is one of the most profound and moving speeches ever presented.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Read those paragraphs, and tell me you’re not moved. And then there’s this:
Voice of a generation right there. What a legacy.
I do not blame Trump for being a dufus. He’s a wealthy reality TV Star, not a diplomat. I blame us for making him relevant. The man doesn’t read books. The man doesn’t read books. The fact that someone so anti-intellectual can even be considered as the leader of the United States of America is downright embarrassing.
It doesn’t have to be this way however. Public Libraries are a thing. They exist. They’re all over the place. Please, I beseech you, go to one, pick up a book, any book, and start reading. Then read another. And another. And don’t stop. Not until you’ve learned the critical thinking skills needed to navigate through the world. Not until you’ve developed enough media literacy to be able to take every message thrown at you throughout the day with a generous grain of salt. Not until you’ve absorbed enough new knowledge to change your opinion on several subjects. Not until you’ve read about somebody else’s religion. Not until you’ve realized just how little you actually know. Because that’s the magic of libraries. They show you just how ignorant you are, and then they give you a means to rectify the problem.
Do that now, before our own stupidity dooms us to a nuclear Armageddon which will devastate our electronic and digital infrastructure, destroy the internet, and sends us back to the dark ages. Where will you get your information when Google doesn’t exist anymore? How will you learn “Life Hacks” without Pinterest, Twitter, or your Facebook news feed?
I’ll give you a hint. Even without electricity, unlike the favorites tab on your internet browser, the books in your local public library will still work.