Is Time Running Out on Public Libraries–and Literature?

March 2005
by David Kipen

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Inside a deserted building in Salinas, down one pitch-black aisle, somewhere on shelves reeking of mildew, a book will be waiting. Maybe there’ll be more than one copy. It won’t matter. The building will be locked.

Last fall, the voters of Salinas declined to rescind the cuts that doomed the building, which is their public library. There are two more like it, and they’ll go dark in the new year, too. Sometime between now and the end of the city’s fiscal year, on June 30, Salinas librarians will put the book and thousands like it beyond use. For some, this bitter act may be the last of their careers.

This might all be happening sooner, but finances and people obey different calendars. Readers of literature observe still another calendar, and, as the National Education Association’s recent “Reading at Risk” report suggests, their time may be running out, too.

But back to the book. If anybody could still read it in Salinas after June 30, on page 220 they’d find this passage: “They’ve closed the chapel….Mummy’s requiem was the last mass said there. After she was buried the priest came in–I was there alone. I don’t think he saw me–and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary.”

This great, unspeakably sad passage descri…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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