Do you recognize these? I haven’t seen them in awhile and I’ve always known that they were at the Main Stacks, but for some reason, I became really nostalgic when I saw them.
One of the reasons I became an English major was because Psychology just wasn’t fun, but more than that, I have a great fondness, almost a passion, for literature. There are some people that I’ve known when I was in grade school who would come up to me and tell me, “I remember you were always reading.” Even now, I think people tend to treat me as an oddity because I actually read. But what does this have to do with the above picture?
First, a little background. As a first generation Korean-American, I was incredibly naive, perhaps more so than usual. My parents couldn’t really help me out because they didn’t really know what was going on. Lots of things that I take for granted now, I learned from school and my peers. Sorry, I’m being terribly vague and unclear. Let me try and remedy that.
How did you learn to use the library? (Or, do you still not know how to use one?) I think that most kids learn because their parents take them when they are young. I never had that luxury because my parents didn’t know how to use one. I only started going to the library when I was a grade school student. I have to guess that I was about 7 since I moved during second grade. Maybe I was a little older. Anyway, one of the first things we learned to use was the card catalog, those things in the above picture. It was amazing. All of those index cards held information that could enable one to find any book in the library. At that moment, I was hooked. The library was a refuge of sorts. At the risk of sounding cliche, I have to say that books really took me to a different place. That was my method of escape from the mundane. Even now, reading is my preferred method of relaxation, though my tastes have matured and widened.
People have heard me say this before, but it really makes me mad to hear some people say, “I haven’t read since high school”, in a proud tone of voice. We live in a society where education is (somewhat) valued and we are given the opportunity to read and learn and yet, we take it all for granted. Reading is not only a method of escape, but it’s also a way to pick up culture, something that this society sorely lacks. People may not realize it, but there is a lot of power in the written word. Due to the fact that we are living in an age that caters to instant gratification without thought, we can get our news in sound bites on the television or just wait for the next bestselling novel to become a (horribly butchered) movie. But, novels had the power to spread ideas that may have been censored. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift is a satire on English society. The novels of Charles Dickens revealed the squalor of the English middle class. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair unveiled the disgusting side of the meat packing industry in turn of the century Chicago. Have you heard of these novels? Do you know who I’m talking about?
Last week was Banned Books Week and though people try to ban books, our Constitution prevents that from happening. Think of how blessed we are to live in a country where the freedoms of thought and speech are permitted. We take so many things for granted, we have forgotten how to be grateful for the little things.
Anna (Champaign, IL, USA)
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