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Why You Should Show Your Library Some Love

On the birthday of Melvil Dewey, inventor of the famous book cataloguing system, we express our appreciation for libraries.
by Joshua H. Phelps | Dec 10 2018

Where else can you go to feed your curiosity, then come away satisfied, yet somehow hungrier than before?

Libraries take on many forms. Maybe it’s a futuristic glass-and-steel construction. Maybe a sturdy structure commissioned by Dale Carnegie. Recently, there have been many little free ones sprouting up around neighborhoods in the US.

On top of books, libraries have also been quick to adapt their offerings to new technologies. So whether you want to take your favorite book in the original, as an audiobook, or to see the film adaptation, your local library will be able to help you.

“…[L]ibraries are the great symbol of the freedom of the mind.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US President 1933-1945

A gaze towards the future has guided many of libraries’ staunchest advocates over the years. Presidents such as Roosevelt, authors like Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling, philanthropists including Bill Gates and Dale Carnegie, and leaders from many other walks of life have all extolled the virtues of these facilities.

By offering easy access to information, libraries play a key role in maintaining engaged members of society. Alongside books, you can often find classes, lectures, and other services across a wide range of topics. By crossing paths with other individuals in libraries, either while chatting in a quiet corner or through reading what they wrote, we elevate our own humanity.

“We need libraries. We need books. We need literate citizens.”
Neil Gaiman

Like the people you meet outside of a book, you won’t necessarily agree with those you meet inside one either. Sometimes the same author can astound you and enrage you from one work to the next. That said, it is often comforting to come back to a writer after a long time away, the familiar voice making it feel like you’re catching up with an old friend.

Setting aside time to read or connect with others, especially for the joy of what we’re reading or connecting over, develops and broadens our skills in interpersonal communication, empathy, curiosity, and creativity. We meet people who have shared our concerns and similar travails in their life’s journeys. By listening to them, we can learn from the past and gain a polestar by which we can navigate towards our vision for the future.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges

Sections of the library exist where I will likely never set foot. It is humbling and helps me to appreciate the sheer breadth of our knowledge. Plus, those boundaries are constantly expanding. One variant of the Dewey Decimal System has 1,000 topic-sections for classifying books! And a fair number of them still haven’t been assigned to anything.

Melvil Dewey’s Decimal System provides a framework for organizing the books themselves, but the ideas and inspirations within those volumes—and their fully human creators—truly define what a library offers.

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