Tomorrow, my hometown of San Diego will officially open its new, multi-story public library in East Village, just a few blocks from the heart of downtown. I’ve watched it come to life via stories in the San Diego Union Tribune, visits to downtown, and anytime I’ve had to go south on I-5 past the exit for the Zoo.
I can honestly say I cannot wait for this opening, even though I live half an hour away and will likely have to pay to park every time I use it. Those are minor inconveniences and really centered only on little me and not what this building means in terms of the larger picture.
Some have criticized the city for erecting a multi-million dollar “relic” to a bygone era, when books were king and ‘digital media’ were two words that meant nothing when sandwiched together. Some think that print media is on its way out, forever on its way out. Libraries will become museums, they say.
Even if that were true, shouldn’t that be all the more reason to maintain our libraries? Even if libraries become museums, and I firmly say here and now I don’t think they will, do we not value our museums? Do not museums safeguard the tangible evidences of our history?
And think on this. Just because so much of what you can read or check out at a library you can read or download on the Internet, the content on the Internet is NOT universally free. There are a great many resources on the Internet that are available for viewing only to those who’ve the money to pay for it.
If that’s not convincing, consider that this new library is not just a repository for books and printed matter (may it live forever) but as the Union Tribune pointed out this morning in its editorial:
“You can get married in this library, on a top-floor perch with an incredible view. You can go to high school in this library. You can watch a political debate among candidates for mayor or attend myriad other civic functions. You can marvel at the art on the walls or the architectural charm and whimsy of the building itself, like the outdoor “stairway to somewhere” that leaves it to your own imagination just where it really leads. You can buy holiday gifts at this library or simply while away the time on a lazy day.
If you’re a follower of San Diego history, you can go outside and imagine yourself to be legendary city planner John Nolen, who in 1908 first envisioned a link from San Diego Bay all the way to Balboa Park. The library serves as a symbolic anchor for the bay end of the link.
And, of course, you can read.”
Children’s author Laurie Purdue Salas has said that “a well-stocked, well-staffed library is like a gardener who plants books, knowledge, and dreams and grows readers, learners, and do-ers.”
A library is a place for a community to celebrate knowledge, share knowledge, impart knowledge. It’s far more than just a place where words still exist on paper.
Way to go, San Diego Central Library. I salute you.