Sunday, November 24, 2013

The library as refuge

Henry Rollins seems to be following me through every stage in my life. First, in middle school, the moment I spied an incredibly tall eighth grader with spiked hair and a "Black Flag Roach Motel" t-shirt was the moment that I realized that the age of ELO and bland suburban innocence was over.
When I was a rock critic, I was sent to review one of his stand-up routines (I was unimpressed).

These days, I'm viewing Rollins as one of the reasons to love Los Angeles. His KCRW radio show is the best thing on air and I am both shocked and relieved that it's still on.

Now, in this LA Weekly column, he pops up as a passionate supporter of libraries and librarians.

No longer tethered to a space, a library is still a sacred haven for certain kids -- the ones who don't fit in, are bullied, and are seeking a sign that, one day, things will be different.

Here's Rollins on his own experience:

"I preferred books over people. They didn't beat me up or take my bike. There was something very empowering about walking into the building, past all the adults, and realizing that I could pull down any book I wanted to and just start reading. I don't know why but it was a huge deal to me."

I know why -- the library is an offering of what is out there in the world, and it's a chance for confused, alienated kids to take that piece of the outside world and bring it in. It's a chance to have a choice about what they experience.

In the conversations about why libraries matter, the idea of the place as a safe haven or sacred space for kids who need one the most rarely comes up because we have moved beyond the limitations of brick and mortar. The kids in the library know that, quite often, it's still a library's most important role.

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