Thursday, May 3, 2007

Let's hear it for public libraries

I love Colleen Mondor, aka "Chasing Ray" and book reviewer for Bookslut and a bunch of other venues. She weighed in Tuesday about the National Book Critics Circle's petition drive to save the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's book review section, and about book reviewing in general. She doesn't have a problem with book reviews in general, just with elitism. She quotes Kathleen Parker's Orlando Sentinel column to save book reviewing
People who read books are different from other people. They're smarter for one thing. They're more sensual for another. They like to hold, touch and smell what they read. They like to carry the words around with them -- tote them on vacation, take them on train rides and then, most heavenly of all, to bed.

correctly identifying her and her editor as twits. She goes on to write:
Look, I'm fine with book reviews in newspapers - honestly my problem with newspapers for the past few years has involved their collective inability to pursue hard stories concerning the Iraq War, not if Thomas Pynchon is getting his 800th review. Yes, book reviewing is great and good and I'm all for positive discussion of books. But is newspaper book review coverage really what's keeping America literate? Is this the cause that must be embraced and written about by the country's top critics and all those earnest authors who are posting at the NBCC?

Is this the big important battle we should be paying attention to?

No. Not by a long shot.

Why aren't we all up in arms about public libraries? We read the stories about Jackson County, Oregon and feel bad - but those libraries closed anyway last month and now it's up to the residents to raise the money on their own to get them open again. And as for the Gulf Coast - do I even need to remind everyone what a mess the Gulf Coast library systems are still in? Twenty libraries in Louisiana alone are still closed from Katrina - still closed 18 months later. Has the NBCC been rallying the troops to speed up the process to get those buildings rebuilt, repaired and reopened?

What about funding for emergency book mobiles? What about increasing the hours in school libraries for the communities to use? I don't know - what about coming up with ideas to help the community get more access to books? And what about the poor kids who spend time in the juvenile justice system in the city of New Orleans? Not a library to be found in those detention centers - except the ones that volunteers are putting together on their own.

I'd encourage you to read her entire entry, "It's all about saving America."


Lufus said...


I forwarded this blog link to a friend of mine who is starting a floating library for Lao children. I worked with Joan at the U for many years. She has a journalism degree but became a terrific accountant and headed up the Sponsored Reporting (research reporting) at the U. I hope you will hear from her.

slatta said...

Thanks, Lu. I'll probably log in and send them a few. I ran my first marathon for Team in Training to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research, so I have a real soft spot for these things. Not to mention the fact that their cause is a good one.