Sunday, June 13, 2010

Still on my Top Ten List

L.A. libraries are cut to 5 days a week - LA Times

And so it goes. Los Angeles public library will be open five days a week instead of six.  I know, it’s only one day less.  I know, it’s just the library and there are children starving and people living on curbs. I know.  And maybe it would be easier for me to support these decreased hours if I knew that the money would translate into blankets and steaming bowls of soup.  But I don’t.  I fear that the extra funds will be poured into bolstering tourism or cleaning up beaches…both fine causes, but lacking in the peaceful meditation of crisp pages and volumes of dreams. 

I think what bothers me the most is the prioritizing I imagine must have occurred.  The ranking of the library as less important, extraneous, frivolous. I hope that LA citizens will cherish the library as sacred and ignore the political message that the library is expendable.  I hope that, regardless of shorter hours and story-hours erased, we continue to grasp the future found amidst fiction, and use poetry as our daily soundtrack. I hope that we remember to stand up for the written word and opt for the new memoir over the digital download.  I hope that we remember to memorize historic tales and savor teachings of those who walked before us. I hope we treasure the fantasies, and pour through the novels.  I hope we can tap into the thrill of unopened goals and visions painted with the nib of a pen.  I hope we get lost among the shelves and stumble into stories, leaving our practicality and routines at the door.  I hope we bond with new characters, and mourn our goodbyes at the last page.  I hope we remember to carry our library card on our keychain, protecting possibilities and bedtime fiction.

 I hope we visit the library during lunch hours, after work, first thing in the morning, and on a Friday afternoon.  I hope we scream with our roster of checked out items, scream with the voices of fervent readers who refuse to cut the story short.  I hope we rally by reading magical chapters to our children, holding up glossy pages and letting imaginations flow.  I hope we march for our words, our authors, and our ideas for tomorrow, as we stand in line, awaiting phrases of enlightenment. 

While I can own my inner library fanatic, I do recognize that books can be read at bookstores, or on line, or on handy electronic readers.  I know that there are school libraries and books on tape.  I realize that most children would rather play video games or shoot hoops, and that education can be absorbed in ways other than the written word.  I can appreciate the bottom-line numbers and budgets printed in red.  I sympathize with the endless shuffling required to write the checks to run a city. I know. I know that you can only please some of the people some of the time. 

I'm not pleased.

And while I might sympathize with the politician’s plight, I am not a politician, which we can all be relieved about.  But I am a Los Angeles citizen, and I will continue to stand up and frown, to relay my displeasure, to ask for what I want, for what I think this city needs. I ask for those signing their names to acknowledge that with each vote cast, there is one more loss to grieve.  I will sing my reader’s song, and recite my poet’s plea.  

I will wait by your steps until I'm sure you hear my message: For every dollar cut from the library’s budget, it is one less book that will be read.  For every hour reduced, we are censoring the education of our children.  For each library program cancelled, a dream slips through our fingertips.  And for each additional day the library doors remain locked, know that it is a day without color, lacking in vibrant words and vivid fantasy. I know it won’t change budgets or reverse policies. But carry the grief in your briefcase and shoulder the lost dreams before patting yourself on the back. 

Take a moment to feel the unread words evaporating in the breeze.  Know that in a list of priorities, the library still makes my top 10 list.

Know that I am not pleased.

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