Libraries are like all you can eat buffets. You can fill up on all sorts of stuff that is good for you, or you can fill up on junk. It is your choice, but also you have to bear the responsibility of your choice. If you are what you eat, you certainly are what you read.
There is something for everyone at the library. No matter what your taste or inclination, there is something for you. Even in fiction, I am constantly amazed at the variety. There are not just multiple genres, but crossovers. Large print Christian Amish suspense. Urban historical Western romance. Zombie romantic comedy. We have it all.
There is a lot of fiction, but also a lot of non fiction. If you want to learn anything about how to improve your health, your business, your marriage, your community, or the world, the library has it.
The library was my salvation when I was a child. It still is. I learned about the secret of Santa Claus from the library. I learned about the secret of sex too. I have no idea if my parents were ever going to clue me in to either one of these things. I learned early on that if I wanted the truth, I was going to find it in a book rather than from them. Even now, if there is anything that I need to know more about, I find a book from the library and learn.
Libraries are also my escape. If life is a little bit heavy, then some Terry Pratchett will lighten it. If life is too predictable, then Neil Gaiman will make things more interesting. Libraries are a place to find new friends for my journey.
Libraries are the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how poor you are or how uneducated your parents are. With a library you can escape the horrible pull of poverty and ignorance. Yet, just like with a buffet, you can make bad choices too. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say they are bad, but they certainly aren’t nutritious or uplifting.
I’m sad when people use their library to exclusively waste their time and thus their lives. I’m sad when poor parents don’t use the resource of the library to help their children escape the cycle of poverty. Nothing is more empowering than knowledge.
We have a limit of 10 movies that patrons can check out at a time, and there are a stunning amount of people who get that limit and watch them and get then more, every few days. Some people have their wives’ and child’s card and get 30 movies at a time.
What an amazing waste.
Then there is “urban erotic fiction”, with broken English and stereotyped scripts. I’ve already written about how damaging I find that genre. I’m upset that it teaches African-American women that they are things and not people. I’m upset that it teaches them that they aren’t anything unless they have a man, and they aren’t much then either. I’m upset that they are reading the literary equivalent of deep-fried Twinkies. I want them to be empowered, not enslaved.
There are also other choices that aren’t the best. Sure, you don’t have to get educational materials all the time. But I worry about parents who let their children only get comic books. Children are like plants. You have to support them and raise them. They can’t be allowed to just grow up like weeds. They have to have good information put in them.
It is stunning to see the difference between foreign born parents and American born parents. The foreign born ones get educational books for their children. The children learn early on that their job is to learn. They develop healthy habits about learning. The parents choose for their kids the majority of their books.
The American born parents let their children pick out whatever they want. While I’m all for kids having some say in what they read, I know that they aren’t going to push themselves at all. Some, generally lower income ones, let their kids get just movies. This will just continue the cycle of poverty. If they can’t read, they can’t get good jobs.
Library materials and food are the same. If you let a child choose what to eat, he is going to pick junk food and candy. No child picks broccoli and squash if he has had hot dogs and chocolate. I’m not for censorship at the library, the same way I’m not for eliminating fried food at Golden Corral. I am for people being mindful about the repercussions of their choices. Life is short. Choose wisely.