It’s not coincidence that the words ‘library’ and ‘liberty’ are closely related by root. Despite what some people think, the more one knows, the better he or she is. Reading books gives one knowledge that frees the mind from stupidity. Of course, there are those who might say that I am confusing knowledge with smarts.
Ever since that game Trivial Pursuit was introduced in 1979 it seems as if our culture has put a premium on all types of knowledge, even insignificant data that won’t help pay for a cup of coffee or a bottle of water.
Regardless, I’ve always respected anyone who is weighed down with mounds of trivial facts on obscure subjects. After all, I’m the guy who will tell you to make three right turns instead of a simple left turn. I have a need to let you know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. On this latter subject, don’t ask me- check it out through using a web browser.
Growing up in the 1950’s on the West Side of Chicago, my first exposure to a storehouse of knowledge and information was the Legler Regional Library Branch near the northeast corner of Pulaski and Wilcox. Being quite young at the time, I only recall Ma holding me by the hand as we walked up a whole bunch of stairs to the library front entrance.
A few years later, I remember visiting the Austin Branch Library just north of Lake Street and west of Central on, I believe, Grace. During this period, I finally received a library card and was made to understand the importance of taking good care of it as well as returning books back on time in lieu of paying a fine.
Attending college at Northeastern Illinois University in the early 1970’s, I became quite impressed with the non-book materials available at the campus library such as micro fiche and microfilm rolls of old newspapers and magazines.
By the mid 1970’s, it became more important to spend the energy on finding a decent career or at least the stepping stones to building a career. When not working, I was playing sports during evening time.
Come the new century and my body had a talking with my mind and said I had to quit the extra curricular activities. I now had more time to devote to refueling my mind with insignificant but enjoyable and entertaining data. I started the path back slowly by going once every two weeks to a book store and leafing through the discounted material section. I also decided not to waste time reading fiction. After all, life itself was strange and more often ironically funny. I didn’t need to read someone else’s made up stories. I concentrated on books of fact and information as well as biographies.
I learned that the best stories about people’s lives were the ones that the subject matter wrote himself. After all, if one is going to tell a good lie, I’d rather here it from the person who fabricated it than from someone looking from the outside in.
After a while, it dawned on me that I was wasting precious money at the book store and was better off going to the library and reading books for free. A year ago, I started by visiting every other week to borrow two biographies to read. Now it seems as if I go twice a week. The one dread is that I run out of interesting non-fiction books that tickle my fancy and am forced – gulp- to start checking out the fiction section.
To reshape a phrase spoken by Lieutenant McGarrett on Hawaiian Five-O: “Book It!”