People are waiting in there, thousands of people, who wrote the books. So it’s much more personal than just a book. So when you open a book, the person pops out and becomes you. You look at Charles Dickens, and you are Charles Dickens, and he is you. So you go in the library and you pull a book off the shelf, and you open it, and what are you looking for? A mirror. All of a sudden, a mirror is there and you see yourself, but your name is Charles Dickens. That’s what a library is. Or the book is Shakespeare, and so you become William Shakespeare or you become Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost or all the great poets. So you find the author who can lead you through the dark.
Now I must say, without weeping, how much this writer means to me. Ray Bradbury has been the strongest inspiration to me as a writer, or even as a human, persevering through the unimaginative obstacles, and he is the true inspiration for this project of Drunken Library. Bradbury was a novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet. He was a self-educated man, an idea enthusiast, and one who charmed you with such fun and imagination that you felt like a child reborn. Reading Bradbury is like a soft blow of ocean mist after the morning rain has cleared.
Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois and fell in love with reading when he was three years old. He began reading comics and fantasy, then hoped to grow up to be all the characters that he read about. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, he started religiously attending the public library, from which he says that he graduated. The library educated and fulfilled him. He was most successful in science fiction, screenplays, always defending the imagination of the individual.
In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.
If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you, and you’ll never learn.
Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
The things that you do should be things that you love, and the things that you love should be things that you do.
Incomplete List of Suggested Reading:
The Martian Chronicles (1950)
The Illustrated Man (1951)
Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Dandelion Wine (1957)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)
I Sing the Body Electric (1969)
The Cat’s Pajama’s (2004) – Collection of Short Stories
His formal education ended at high school; he never attended a college, but a library.
When he was a boy, Bradbury was tapped on the shoulder by the sword of a carnival man and told to “Live forever!” which inspired his works for a lifetime.
Bradbury was afraid of the dark until he was almost twenty years old and he never obtained a driver’s license.
Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;
A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it everything;
A book separate, not link’d with the rest, nor felt by the intellect;
But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm’d Libertad!
It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.
“I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.”
Since it opened in 1911, the building has become a New York City landmark, praised not only for its beauty but also for its functional brilliance. In the words of one contemporary architect, the main branch of The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42ndStreet is “a perfect machine for reading.” The grand Reading Room sits atop seven levels of iron and steel books stacks whose contents could, at one time, be delivered to anybody who requested a book within a matter of minutes via a small elevator. Those stacks also support the floor of the Reading Room above.
“I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years… At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
In Japan, a second library is set to open that is funded by private bookseller Tsutaya. Is this evidence of turning over a new leaf or should we throw the book at the commercialisation of a public service?
It’s been years since I was a heavy library user. Moving to Japan had something to do with that. I use the public libraries in Tokyo but not often; usually it’s just to borrow a book in Japanese on a work-related topic. And I never linger. Libraries here tend to be an uninviting place to read. Same cramped interior. Same utilitarian furniture. Same fluorescent lighting. To get my ink-on-paper fix, I prefer Tsutaya Books in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district. Few libraries can compete with the experience of a bookshop that’s so complete it offers hope for the future of bricks-and-mortar booksellers.
Which brings me to a story in the Japanese media last week about library makeovers. Specifically, Tagajo: a city in Miyagi prefecture, north of Tokyo, that has signed an agreement with Tsutaya’s parent company to build what the two sides are calling a “centre of cultural exchange”. Their plans call for a space that’s a public library, bookshop, café and restaurant all rolled into one seamless package. Tsutaya’s involvement makes it likely that Tagajo’s library will have all the trappings of, well, a Tsutaya bookshop.
This will be the second time a city has tapped Tsutaya to run a library. The first – in Takeo city, in the southern prefecture of Saga – opened in April, to mostly enthusiastic reviews. Anyone who has browsed the cosy aisles at Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama will immediately spot the design similarities. Hanging and standing lamps and bookshelves with recessed lighting complement the daylight that pours in from the skylight and large ground-floor windows – and not a naked fluorescent bulb in sight. Freestanding shelves on the ground floor and floor-to-ceiling shelves in an upstairs loft hold 200,000 books and reference materials. Amid the stacks there are plenty of wooden tables where you can park yourself with a book for hours. Tsutaya also train the staff and provide the black-and-white uniforms that make them easy to pick out in a crowd.
This year, as we celebrate National Library Week, April 12 – 18, it is important to realize that libraries not only engage, but also transform their communities, especially during times of emergency, when libraries are often the glue that holds communities together.
A dramatic illustration of this was displayed in Ferguson, Missouri during August and November 2014, following the announcement of a Grand Jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
When local schools were closed, the library became an “ad hoc school on the fly” where students were taught by “working and retired teachers” and other volunteers. The library remained open and provided space for teachers to hold classes. Library staff went even further by creating special programming and educational experiences for the students. It also supported its community by hosting the U.S. Small Business Administration so it could provide emergency loans, the office of the U.S. Secretary of State to provide document recovery and preservation services and the Missouri Department of Insurance to help local businesses file for insurance and claims.
In addition, the library staff supported the children of Ferguson by circulating “healing kits,” which included books, stuffed animals and activities to help them cope with the unrest in their community.
Contrary to the narrow, old-fashioned view that pigeonholes them as places to check out books, libraries often fill the gap when other community agencies break down.
After Hurricane Sandy, libraries in Connecticut and New Jersey welcomed residents without power and provided emergency services ranging from daytime shelter to providing a space for filing insurance claims. The library provided a place where people could share experiences with others affected by the hurricane. Continue reading “How Libraries Are Transforming Into Community Anchors”