An Open Letter to the Librarians of Kauai

Dear Librarians of Kauai,

Your job is tough. You are shepherds of books in a place where books have many natural enemies. This is an island so humid that books curl damply on my bookshelf. Mold powders every spine, pickles every page with white dust or black spots. Sand works itself into the glue, causing pages to faint listlessly out of binding. Rain falls into daily puddles can easily appear where a safe dry book spot was.  Bugs swarm and devour: silverfish and termites, those little dusty small aphids and tiny spiders that infest floury cookbooks. The hot sun bleach-bakes paper, salt air rusts paper, red dirt dyes paper. Books age prematurely, battered by the unmitigated elements. In the face of this constant battle, you librarians must be tired, worn down, exhausted--- trying to keep your books safe.

Patrons come into the library. Patrons complicate matters-- they scramble the books, misplace them, expose them to earth wind and fire. In their eagerness they might pull 15 books off the shelf-- and put them back askew, or carry them to the desk, deliberate, reject. They touch the books. They splay them open, creasing their spine. They fold the corners down, they drop salty tears onto the ink. They carry them around, dusting them with car detritus, airplane debris, coffee shop splashback, lunchtime grime.

Dear librarians. I realize that, if it weren't for the unruly patrons, all of those books would stay crisp and white and fresh. Their spines would remain straight and even, their pages unyellowed. DVDs would never be scratched, witches' staring faces would never be stabbed with frightened crayons, how-tos would remain un-glued and un-glittered. And would that be a triumph?

But are you a librarian to protect and defend the materials? Is that job-- simply keeping your books clean and fresh and bound-- your purpose? Are you the great defenders of those physical artifacts called books, or cds, or dvds? Or are you the defenders of their contents?

If the wild hordes of visigothic patrons have their way, they will bring in carts to lug away their books-- passions flame and 45 dinosaur books fill the wagon. The books will get dropped, jabbed at with greasy fingers, slept with, lost under the bed, and eventually, grudgingly returned. Shabbier, dustier, closer to the recycling bin. But dear. Humans, rapt, entranced, beguiled by Smilodons and wooly mammoths and giant sloths and astrelopithecus. Or by a parade of Cinderellas-- Korean, Chinese, Navajo, German. Or by a cascade of philosophy, poetry-- thoughts enormous and mundane.

The books would suffer. They would be splayed and splashed and tattered and tarnished. But the people-- those aggravating patrons-- would be transformed from empty to full vessels. The artifacts will be internalized, swallowed up, and the books left empty, and the precious contents sent walking around to the beach and through the store. They will dream of supernovas and diplodoci, and let the pages wilt and be devoured.

Comments

  1. Did you make a pilgrimage back to our favorite Koloa Library recently?

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  2. It was Lihue this time-- like a comedy of rudeness and demeaning condescension.

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  3. oh good grief. at least you can check out a book and not have to pay $70 a year.

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  4. Love this, reminds me of that dear "sweet" Koloa librarian. In case you couldn't here the sarcasm in the words dear and sweet it was there.

    ReplyDelete

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