People Need Libraries


Critical resources can be found at any decent library in this country. Sometimes, the only way for people to get to those resources is through a well-run library that has been closed for the last year. We need to reopen these facilities safely:

The last time I saw the inside of a library was the afternoon of March 12. Crocuses were peeking out of the ground. The neighbors were out for a stroll, the sidewalks strangely dense with pedestrians. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was a holiday.

The looming pandemic had propelled me out of Brooklyn and back to my hometown of Seattle. Mask wearing was underway, though it all still felt a bit hypothetical. It wasn’t until I walked into the library that day—the same stately, brick Carnegie library I grew up around the corner from, a branch I’d been going to since I was in grade school—that it hit me.

I walked inside and smelled the air, the scent of old pages from my childhood. And then it dawned on me—if I could smell the books through my mask, what other particles were also floating in? All of a sudden, paranoia. I sensed germs everywhere. Right next to me, over across the room, on the book of essays I was holding. There was a dispenser of hand sanitizer at the front—a comically puny intervention, when you think about it, against the manifold surfaces of a library book, an object defined by its passage through countless, anonymous fingers. I asked a librarian if I could use the restroom to wash my hands. Sorry, she said. Restrooms are closed. The next day, Seattle’s chief librarian announced the closure of all branches.

If we can reopen restaurants, we should be able to open up libraries. If it takes emergency funds, let's figure out a way to make it happen.

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