Random Observations of a Former Fine Arts Library Page
I grew up in my town’s local library. It was small, but they had Goosebumps and other excellent series, and that’s all my ten-year-old self needed. Even at 22, I still feel the same sense of awe upon entering pretty much any library. But it’s not just because I love books and the sight of stacks of them gets my heart pounding. Really, it’s kind of amazing that libraries exist these days, in a world where everything good seems to come with a catch. Though recent White House budget cuts suggest that not everything is what it seems when it comes to library funding.
Before starting college, I wasn’t aware that there were people out there in the world who believed libraries weren’t essential. Who could argue that having a space that benefits all ages and provides educational opportunities is a bad investment?
So when I started working at my university’s fine arts library, I felt all the more connected to libraries as a whole and their function in our lives. And though I’ve always respected and appreciated what these spaces have added to my life, I had a few more realizations along the way.
A library is much more than books
This was one of my first realizations when I started working. To me, libraries were mostly books and then perhaps a few desktop computers from the early 2000s. But as I saw more libraries, specifically in larger cities, I realized just how complex they can be.
In my case, the fine arts library was literally located next to an art gallery. The building was filled with paintings and student work, which filtered into the library confines. Obviously not all libraries are the same, but I believe libraries are cousins to the museum. Beyond the material things, it’s interesting to see how each library is constructed and what they prioritize.
It says a lot about humanity as a whole that we continue to uphold and support such institutions. Even though we’re reaching a point where the fate of the library is uncertain, I can’t foresee the underlying principles ever going away. Education and accessibility are the core purpose of libraries, and even if the buildings themselves cease to exist, we still have the foundation.
jstor AND GOOGLE SCHOLAR ONLY GET YOU SO FAR
I hate to admit it, but I was definitely one of those students who took advantage of the campus libraries’ collections pretty late in the game. There’s not as much information online as you’d expect. Sure, you can get most facts and statistics, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, you might as well crack open a book.
This tidbit is probably obvious to most people, but I think many others discount the value of getting information from solid objects (or Google Books). But lots of libraries also carry old books—like REALLY old. And these texts are super valuable not only in content but the actual physical copy. From the material used in binding to the thickness of the pages, every aspect is important to somebody.
Even the books you can find online are missing some of the magic that you can only feel through holding it in your own two hands.
genuine curiosity is abundant
Spaces that foster unapologetic curiosity are essential these days. Libraries are perfect for niche interests that you can’t find information on elsewhere. Specifically in the library where I worked, we had a slew of books pertaining to obscure artists and totally random subjects.
But in general, I think libraries are essential to acceptance. It’s a space where nothing seems out of the ordinary. I can’t tell you how many people, not even students, came in to ask questions. As an introvert, I always wondered why people would even bother asking a question that a Google search could answer. But I realized that people like to talk to a flesh-and-blood human being sometimes.
And as overused as the phrase might be, libraries really are a “safe space” in many ways. Outlandish inquiries are just a daily ritual. Nobody goes to the library to judge anyone, which is certainly a breath of fresh air.