I have, in my life, been well-employed, unemployed, freelancing, employed, a student, a volunteer, and some combination of the above at some transitioning points. So I know what it is like to have to watch and count your pennies, and sometimes I haven’t had comprehensive health insurance either. That’s why I will forever be grateful to libraries, the good ones, the ones which are well-funded either by some well-meaning philanthropic foundation or a government that truly does believe in its investment in education (I don’t care what political leaning it thinks it has).
A government that funds its public libraries well and stocks it both with dedicated staff and excellent collections is a government that believes in egalitarianism and meritocracy. Knowledge and escapism for all, wherever you are on whatever manmade scale into which you have been slotted. In the places I lived, in the times in my life (I almost wrote “lives”, and maybe that’s also acceptable) in which I was too poor to buy all the books I wanted to read, there was the library.
I was a librarian for a short time in primary school, because I liked having unsupervised access to the books. That’s until I stole one because I loved it so much I wanted to keep it. It was about apples and apple trees, which seemed to foretell the nature of my developing relationship with books.
In my all-girls high school, I hid out in the library whenever adolescent angst made me upset. Well, it was there or the chapel, and Jesus hanging on the cross and a mournful-looking Mary did not exactly do much for my mournful mood.
Now, in between lives again, I raid the library frequently. It is a wonderful library, with very current titles and all the award-winning novels and non-fiction, and if they don’t have something you want, you’re invited to email them and tell them why it should be in the collections. It smells like possibility. Everyone and anyone can just walk in and there, on those quiet, ordered shelves, are worlds just waiting to be visited.