(HOST) This is National Library Week, and Commentator Deborah Luskin thinks there’s lots to celebrate.
(LUSKIN) I have lots of interests, but one passion – I love to read. I read fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose; I read for information and for entertainment, and I read year-round, at all hours of the day – and night. Reading led me to a PhD in English and a job leading book discussions in libraries around the state.
Back in the days of card catalogues, before the internet, I was writing my dissertation in Vermont, but commuting to New York City to teach and do my research. I would thumb through the cards in Butler Library’s catalog room at Columbia, a library with about nine and a half million volumes and which is open seven days a week, fourteen hours a day. With resource list in hand, I’d return to Vermont and make my bibliographical requests at my local, public library. A week or so later, photocopies of scholarly articles would arrive in the mail. This was spectacular service for any library, let alone one with a collection of less than ten thousand volumes – and only open about ten hours a week.
Now, with on-line catalogues, Vermont’s libraries have become even more accessible. Using Vermont’s on-line catalog, I can browse the state library’s holdings. The Department of Libraries website is also a portal to the catalogues of eight local college libraries and two dozen of the state’s larger public collections. I’ve been known to search the UVM catalog at two in the morning. There’s something deliciously illicit in virtually wandering about the library in the middle of the night, wearing my pajamas.
And I do it all the time.
When I need to consult the Special Collections, I do have to make the three-hour drive to look at books that don’t circulate. But mostly, if it’s just an ordinary book I want, I can request it at my local library, only three miles away.
Like many of the 185 public libraries in Vermont, the Moore Free Library occupies what was once a small house on a residential street. Before I had high speed internet at home, I would bring my laptop to the library and connect via their network. Now that I have DSL in my home office, I visit the library to escape from my virtual world. It’s nice to handle real books and talk with real people in real time in the comfort of solid, wooden chairs.
I also pay the out-of-town fee for privileges at Brooks Library, in Brattleboro. According to the Calculator on their website, which estimates the value of its services, I receive more than ten times the cost of my card. In addition to borrowing books, magazines, audio and video, membership at Brooks also gives me access to subscription databanks of the arcane, scholarly articles I use all the time.
Whether I’m looking for materials on-line or attending a lecture, reading or book discussion, the library is like my second home.