the library is the arsenal

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why isn't this a story about libraries?

From an article in the Marin Independent Journal about author readings and tuition-based classes at independent bookstores in the Bay Area:

I think the independent bookstore is the last holdout of the type of interaction that's dying in our culture; it's become the town square of old. Here, everybody can come together and trade ideas.
-Book Passage owner Elaine Petrocelli.

People who turn out for these events are looking for a place to discuss their ideas. Politically, people need a place to talk about these things. We're in a painful, provocative time. People are desiring companionship to talk about these important issues.

-Book Passage Director of Events Karen West.

It's the third place. You have your work, you have your home and there's the third place. For some people, it was the local bar. For an increasing number of people, it's the bookstore.
-District marketing manager for Borders Bookstores in the Bay Area, Cathy Meengs.

In some ways, bookstore events have become the events of choice for a lot of Bay Area residents who come to Point Reyes, not only to experience the natural qualities of the area but the literary offerings we've been sponsoring. Besides the author being the attraction, with the fundraising aspect people feel like they're also contributing something to the community as well.
-Point Reyes Books owner Steve Costa.

Why isn't the Marin County Free Library hosting these kinds of author talks and offering these same types of classes for free? Why isn't the library the place for this, the elusive third place?

To be fair, the Marin Co. Free Library has an active blog, a calendar of public events, and hosts book clubs. However, this is the events calendar for the Corte Madera branch, in the same town as Book Passage. I hate to get tough on libraries, but come on, there are 200 people showing up for author readings in your town. And Marin County is not an impoverished area, either. If there is a large community of well educated people in the community, why isn't the Library tapping into that community for support--with book readings as fundraisers? The book stores are doing it!

It actually hurt my feelings to read what these booksellers had to say, but it's not their fault. They're providing, as the article says, "an increasingly important service to the community." I just wish that a library was filling that role.