When I was a child dinosaurs roamed the earth. There were no VCRs, DVDs, or any streaming services like Netflix. We had first run movies, reruns, and the library. If you missed a show, or a film, or an issue of a magazine, or a comic book, you were out of luck. You were completely in the moment as far as information went, except when you went to the library. It was the only source of history that my generation knew. If you wanted to find out about something that intrigued you, there was no Google – you had to dig around at the library. I remember checking out insane quantities of books on certain subjects – World War Two (my grandfather was a fighter pilot), Bigfoot (Strange Stories and Amazing Facts), and space exploration, were a few of my go-to topics. A librarian once refused to check out the enormous stack of books on aviation I had strained to place on the counter. It seems there was a limit to how many books you could check out on any single subject. I argued with her about the fine distinction between books about aviation and stories about pilots. She was not convinced, and I was only allowed to take five books.
So, you kids today, count your blessings. Our library doesn’t limit you. You can check out 75 items per library card. And, we have electronic sources like Hoopla which allow you to watch TV shows and films ON YOUR PHONE. Will wonders never cease? My great grandmother used to say that she’d lived a hundred lives. When she was a girl, there were still horse drawn carriages in the streets, but in her lifetime she saw men walking on the moon. That fighter pilot grandfather I mentioned, before he died we were communicating by email. Wonders.
Take a look around and appreciate our rocket ship of an existence. Amidst all of the trips, traps, and foibles of technology, our culture is constantly moving beyond our wildest imaginings. We may not have our flying cars and jetpacks, but we have access to the sum total of human knowledge, and it fits into our phones. Your public library is still here, and we’re ready and willing to help you navigate beyond the edges of the map.
William James Smith
South Branch Library