Of course, I will write about libraries. Any time I find an author who thanks a librarian I know that I like that author.

For this, thanks to Kirsten Grace who discovered an article by Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books (6/2/12), “The North West London Blues.”

Being (please lower voice and look away O-L-D) I asked Kirsten if she subscribes to the NYRB. Her eyes slid sideways as she replied, “Um, no.” Ok, ok, I still subscribe to a few things, a few paper things, that I enjoy taking out of the post box and (dare I say) fondling. From Smith, on the Willesden Green’s Council’s intention to demolish the library:

The three of us lamented this change and the cultural vandalism we felt it represented. Or, if you take the opposite view, we stood around pointlessly, like the Luddite, fiscally ignorant liberals we are, complaining about the inevitable.

Later in the article she says:

What kind of a problem is a library? It’s clear that for many people it is not a problem at all; just a kind of obsolescence. At the extreme pole of this view is the technocrat’s total faith: with every book in the world online, what need could there be of a library?
(nb: not ALL of the books in the world are online)

Finally, because I must stop sometime:

This kind of argument thinks of the library as a function rather than a plurality of spaces.


Ok, I changed my mind; one more bit:

All libraries have a different character and setting. … There aren’t many institutions left that fit so precisely Keynes’s definition of things that no one but the state is willing to take on. … A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.

Thank you, Kirsten

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Ann Roseberry

Ann Roseberry

Ann is a librarian. She has been one since the age of seven, second grade. She discovered the library at Marcus Whitman Elementary and never looked back. Her heroes are librarians and spies.Her home has been invaded by house rabbits and she eats what they do – carrots and parsley.

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  • Elsie Puig

    I love, LOVE libraries. There is no other space in a community that encourages thinking, gathering, place-making and dreaming. Plus, we have a pretty beautiful library. Even just browsing through books is stimulating. I also love Zadie Smith, I’ve read both White Teeth and NW. Thank you Ann!

  • Few things are better at encapsulating the wonder of community and the value of stories and knowledge than a great library.