On "My Libraries"
To the Editor:
L.Renato Grigoli’s as usual right-on, witty “My Libraries: Finding a Third Place” (October 2023) sends me back in time to childhood visits at my working-class Peoria Public Library branch—the library card an important visa into feeling curious, smart, and grown up—taking books home to read under the summertime backyard pear tree or in winter bed, and on into high school there guided by our watchful nun librarian with permission also to amble—during free class time—to the nearby main public library, later wandering the stacks as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Hartford, getting into the habit of finding things I wasn’t looking for, like a year after 1974 college graduation while working in the basement Harvard Coop shipping room I wandered into Boston Public Library, discovering by chance Stefan Zweig’s Die Welt von Gestern (World of Yesterday), leading to a German course at Harvard Extension School!
Sadly, card catalogs in traditional wooden drawers no longer exist, as if every holding in collections were now transferred to be found online. This was already happening two decades ago at places like the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, as I would emerge at front desk checkout only to be told, “We have no record of this book being here.” To which I would reply, “So, should I steal it?”
Intellectual serendipity is long since at risk, as when I traveled across local northern Italian public libraries researching press accounts of an exact list of dated Serate Futuriste / Futurist Evenings, only to find constant card catalog and stacks references to an emerging epidemic of suicide. Even though I had read Durkheim as an undergrad, my inclination was to say, “I’m not here for this” while one day at a time succumbing to the realization “But it found me.”
Last, I don’t really need an espresso bar in the library. But if it makes reading a sociable place, ben bevuto!
Tags: Letters to the Editor
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