Public libraries are amazing places.
The main branch of the NYC Public Library, located on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street is, perhaps, more amazing than most, but only in its’ size, grandeur and stacks of rare & wonderful books. (Ok maybe “only” is sort of understating the matter.)
However, the premise of all libraries is the same. Anyone is welcome as long as they are relatively quiet and respectful of others. There is no time limit on reading or studying or writing or whatever you have come there to do. You can stay from the minute the doors open until the minute they close, and no one will question you. Any book in the library is available to you; you need only take it off the shelf or ask for it. No one will question your reading choices. In the case of NYC’s main library, which is not a lending library, you can fill out a slip and a librarian will get you the book and it is all yours until the end of the day.
Here’s the other thing I love about libraries. Ask a librarian any question, no matter how obscure and they will help you find the answer or at the very least help you find books that will give you the answer.
Today I spent some time wandering around the 42nd St. library with Lenore Skenazy. (Yes, I’m name dropping.) Lenore, as you probably all know, is the author of the book “Free Range Kids” and the blog of the same name. She is a champion of common sense and just as funny and charming in person as she is in writing. As we entered the main reading room of the library, she mentioned that she had once thought of putting together a book of the most boring texts available, to help people with insomnia fall asleep. She asked the librarians for their input and they came up with a bunch of suggestions. City council meeting minutes was one. (Good one, too. I’d be asleep in about 30 seconds.)
Isn’t that great?
My field trip to the library with Lenore reminded me that libraries are to be cherished, preserved and supported at all costs. They are bastions of freedom and self-directed learning.