By Joe Flynn
Odd isn’t it? The self professed “cheerleaders” for San Diego – the editors of the U-T San Diego – preview the grand opening of the new library with this article puffed up with a quote from San Diego’s Dr. No, Richard Rider, libertarian. I wanted to get the spelling right, but after reading his remarks no one will mistake him for a librarian.
Richard Rider, a local libertarian, called the new library “a monument to an era that is ending — a structure that in a few years will have little more utility value than a Pharaoh’s pyramid in Egypt. The only difference is that the library will have high operating costs — the pyramids need no such annual funding.”
–UT San Diego article “New library: Is this monument necessary?”
I loved his analogy though, saying that in a few years the library will have little more utility than the Pyramids of the Pharaohs. We should be so lucky. Perhaps he missed some of the traveling exhibits of the Egyptian treasures from the Pyramids, or the frequent specials and documentaries that follow the continuing explorations.
Many San Diegans worked long and hard with countless donations of time and money necessary to bring the new library to fruition. And the new library offers something for everyone and that does cost money. Andrew Carnegie and his free public libraries were just a jump start; since then we have had to pay for our own libraries. And we pay for things as a society that we do not always personally use because we
believe we benefit when the community benefits. Many of us may not often use our parks or beaches or schools but we still pay for them for others. Why? The inscription over the entrance to the Civic Center on Harbor Drive says it best, “The Noblest Motive is the Public Good.” And in few places is this more evident than in libraries in general and the new downtown library in particular.
I feel sorry for those who say that the electronic age has made books obsolete. Have they never found a book that they truly treasured, read and re-read, and kept it even if they knew its tattered pages by heart? I have many well loved books that I treasure, but I have yet to curl up with or caress a Kindle. Great for filing, but without the heart and soul of a book.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the electronic age. I welcome it in much the same way drivers welcome mass transit — to get those other drivers out of the way. But in the end electronic devices are just that, electronic devices. But a library has real books, and real librarians, who will not rest until they find that book or reference question you are looking for.
So, yes, this library, this monument to learning, is a necessary ingredient in our quality of life.
Editor’s Note: Don’t Miss the New Central Library Celebration Saturday September 28
This first appeared at San Diego Free Press.