Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Great American Library

Today there is an article in the news about a small library in Vermont that actually sits on the border and is used by both Americans and Canadians. The US government is considering changing that, as they think the unguarded entry to the US is being used by bad people.

Maybe. I don’t know. Post 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security can say or do just about anything in the name of National Security, limit or modify our consititutional rights, behave in ways contrary to everything we believe in, and no one seems to be able to stop them.

And that is not the point. The point is that at one time in our history, an industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, donated money to build libraries throughout the United States, Canada and even Scotland, over 2,000 libraries in all.

In almost every town in America, you will find a library, where you can borrow, free of charge, books on any subject.

When I was a little girl, where I lived was so safe that my mother would put me on the bus with my basket family library books and send me to the library, call the librarian to tell her I was coming, and I could spend hours there, and no-one had to worry about my safety. My Dad would pick me up on his way home from work, and I would have a basket of fresh books – the librarian would pick out books for my Mom.

One day, the desk person was sick, and the librarian let me sit at the desk, checking books ou to library patrons. I must have been six or seven years old, and could barely get on the high chair behind the library desk.

Here is what was so cool. I could read at a very early age, and my nine or ten had worked my way through most of the children’s section, and started choosing books from the adult section. The first time, the librarian called my Mom and asked if it was OK, and my Mom said “if she thinks she can read it, check it out to her.” My library card was annotated to inform all the desk people that I could read whatever I wanted, even from the adult section. Woooo Hoooooooo!

My husband has similar stories, growing up in his home town. He loved the library as I did, and one day, rode his bike to the library and then fell asleep there, hidden from view. The librarian closed the library and he woke up alone and very scared. These were pre mobil phones – I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. His family came looking for him and found his bike, called the librarian, who lived nearby, and she let him out.

We still love libraries. It’s an amazing thing, to be able to walk into a treasury of books, pick up a couple hundred dollars worth, and walk out with just your signature as pledge. The newest books on every subject are available, either in the library itself or through their inter-library loan system. Now, too, most of the libraries have a computer section, where you can check your e-mail or do research online – totally free.

Libraries are staffed mainly by females, I don’t know why, it seems to be seen as a female job. But what power these women have! They are the guardians of so much knowledge! Children and adults come to them and ask all kinds of questions, and they know where to look for the answers!

Isn’t learning how to access knowledge one of the true great secrets in life? So these librarians, the guardians of knowledge, are like Superman, holding the front lines against ignorance, promoting access to new ideas and new ways of doing things, combating the forces of darkness and superstition.

Librarians were a powerful force in my life, and in my husband’s. Has there been a powerful figure in your life who made a difference in how you saw the world, in choices you have made?

May 27, 2007 - Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Books, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual


  1. i think the one person outside of my immediate family that has had the most impact was my history teacher in high school here. she was the single most feared person in the school, and despite being in her mid 40’s i think, she still dyed her hair all sorts of colours at once,…. i think mostly to scare the hell out of us 😛 she was probably a punk rocker in the late 70’s in london.

    anyway, shes the one that taught us that history wasnt about memorising dates and who did what to who, but rather why stuff happened, how people behaved and interpreted things, and how we in turn should digest and apply the lessons from history to predict possible outcomes. so many historians dont teach how history is applied to present day, but she did. she taught the few of us that did A-level history how to think critically about the information we had and about the quality of the sources of the information and how that stuff might be applied to present day politics, and how to extrapolate it all into what might happen next.

    and since man as an animal has a limited attention span and an even worse memory, everything gets repeated in one way or another.

    as odd as it sounds, high school history is one of the corner stones of my everyday work, and when ever i’m stumped i always flashback to some degree and usually figuer somethng out.

    and as the saying goes, if you dont know where you’ve come from, how the hell are you gonna know where youre going?

    great post xpat 😀

    Comment by sknkwrkz | May 27, 2007 | Reply

  2. Libraries have always been my refuge. That is why I am studying Library Science! Thanks for a lovely post in tribute to the profession that I feel is my calling. To be surrounded day in and day out by that amazing information!! Heaven!

    BTW, I don’t think I ever knew the name of the Schwarma stand by our house. It was on the road along the beach between Fintas and Abu Halifa, in front of an apartment complex called Union Center (which was leased by Bechtel at the time.) Of course, that was 13 years ago!! It might not even be there anymore!

    Comment by Global Gal | May 28, 2007 | Reply

  3. The Union Center is still there. I noticed it because it has that wierd bridge between the two buildings, way up high, and I often wonder how stable the construction is! There are buildings in front if it now, so it no longer has much of a view. And all the shops along there are now these global franchises – Bread Talk, Marina Thai, Ceasar’s Pizza . . . but occasionally you can still find a privately owned place, like a pharmacy or a small Chinese take out place.

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. My friend lived inside that bridge!

    I can’t believe that area is built up! (Although there is no reason it wouldn’t be.) Back when I was there it was the boonies, and a trip to Fahaheel seemed exciting. Our building faced three huge identical complexes that had been completely sacked during the occupation. All the windows were gone and we could still see junked out and burned cars in the parking lot. We weren’t allowed to go near it nor the beach because of booby-traps and mines. Our building had been hastily retrofitted with windows that didn’t fit quite plumb. Whenever a sandstorm blew in, we had steady streams of sand coming in through the corners and in the right light, you could still see pro-saddam arabic graffiti on the walls that had been lightly painted over.


    Comment by Global Gal | May 29, 2007 | Reply

  5. i still remember fahaheel as global gal described it way back then.

    basically global gal,.. its so built up now it probably looks like hawally or residential salmiya did back when you were here.

    Comment by sknkwrkz | May 29, 2007 | Reply

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