Monday, October 7, 2013

Will Libraries be Obsolete in 2020 and beyond?

"An Open Book" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)
I haven’t checked out a library book since I purchased my Kindle a few years back. I must say, my experience was a refreshing change. I’m more at home in a library than anywhere else in the world next to a paint store or an Office Depot.

I love the smell of books, the excitement of having the world at your fingertips, and the thrall of people with the same sense of drama. Today was no exception. Our library is adjacent to the local high school, and is home to a poor but diverse community.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas SOLD (Prints available)
On this Saturday, every computer, every chair, every table was filled with students and adults reading magazines or searching for books, and parents helping their children find books for themselves. Movies were being checked out in abundance. Non-fiction books seemed more popular than fiction.

I was struck by how vital a library is to a community; especially one with few resources. I sensed that this weekly or monthly trip to the library was an exciting part of each family’s agenda. Eager smiling faces added to the vibrancy that filled the building.

I waited in line with my books: two on pastel techniques, and two on general basics; my way of taking a refresher course in between regular painting sessions and classes. A woman next to me said, “Oh, you’re an artist, too!” Then she proceeded to tell me all about the class she was taking and how she picked up some books to reinforce what she was learning.

"Victims of War" mixed media on canvas
I hope the public library will always be with us. It meant so much to me as a child. I’d walk a few streets on my own and spend the whole afternoon in its warm embrace reading books, sniffing their wonderful pages, and settling into an imaginative world that took me from my small town roots into an adventure with other worlds and cultures.

In some regions, they are already phasing out the library as we know it. Books are being replaced by computers and digital books. You can download books and never have to return them. It seems to be catching on.

I’m sad for the children who will never experience what it feels like to curl up with a real book and smell the wonder of its pages. As a child, I’d sneak a flashlight into bed. After my mother left the room, I’d read under cover for as long as I could. When she discovered my secret, the magic ended, but not my love for books.

"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas; Uganda
That day in the library, I was happy to see parents and children who still had the excitement of books written on their faces. They renewed my hope in America and in the world. Hunger and thirst for knowledge is a good thing. I hope we never lose it!

The freedom to ask questions and search for answers is what keeps us alive and thriving. Without it, we would become puppets of the state and emotional zombies unable to appreciate a world of wonder and beauty.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol; man from Uganda