Keep your books close and your libraries closer

Guest Blogger
Apr 29, 2013
A guest post from Russell Thomas, our Intranet director, on the role libraries have always played in his life. Growing up in the Bronx and moving from neighborhood I was always privileged to have a branch of the New York Public Library within easy walking distance. Whether it was the Francis Marion branch — I didn’t know who he was the first time I visited, but took his biography out to learn — that was right across the street from what was then New York University’s uptown campus; the Fordham Library which was the largest I had ever seen until I stepped inside the fabled Main Branch, or the Van Cortlandt Library where I brought my own children to introduce them to the magic of books and the rite of passage of their own Library card. They were all so close that you could take a young child by the hand and walk there and back without the slightest complaint. Libraries have always been a part of my life, and the relationship has been a complex one. Sometimes they’ve been refuges and places of escape from a larger world that was not always particularly pleasant. Sometimes they’ve been places of pure excitement, offering the ability to randomly pick a book from a shelf and by doing so, enter a new and different world. Sometimes they’ve been counselors, with thousands of voices calling from hundreds of shelves offering knowledge, solace and solutions to every problem imaginable. Always they’ve been sources of joy. I moved from the city to suburbia in 1986. That move had a horrible consequence. The nearest library was five miles away, far too dear in terms of distance and time to walk. Of course the family still made a weekly trip to the library. But somehow, planning a trip, instead of just letting feet follow the silent but still compelling siren call of books unread, took some of the fun out of it. So did the crowded library parking lot which many times was full. But recently something wondrous has happened. The next town over now has a library, and it’s only two miles away! True, it’s a small library, built to serve the needs of a new senior citizens housing complex — happily I’m not there yet – but it has thousands of books and you don’t need to burn gasoline to get them. Somehow walking to the library magnifies the experience. Every step there increases the anticipation of what will be found on arrival. Every step back is one step closer to the moment when you can open the treasure chest of an unread book. An inexhaustible supply of books on demand, from a library within ready walking distance. Now there’s a privilege worth celebrating. Image via