Rao’s “An Elegy for the Library”

This week I stumbled across an opinion piece that was published in the Sunday edition of The New York Times on February 17. The title immediately caught my attention and I knew I should use it for a post on this blog. Mahesh Rao’s piece, “An Elegy for the Library,” is a poem of sorts to be read by every bookworm, avid reader, and casual skimmer alike. 

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This article reminded me a little of my post, Libraries of My Life. Rao spends a portion of the article detailing various libraries and librarians he clearly remembers throughout his life. Not only do the librarians receive his written attention but patrons do as well. Elderly men reading newspapers, diligently working students, and a young boy carefully perusing lines all become an object of observation at one point or another. He also touches upon his fear of the dissolution of the public library (which is an honestly valid fear). And he concludes the article with his reason for writing the elegy–an extremely overdue library book.

As I think I mentioned in my Libraries of My Life post, I’ve pretty much grown up in libraries as my mother has worked in a high school library for all of my life. As a child, I loved visiting her at work and looking at various titles I couldn’t wait to read when I was “old enough” to understand them. Before every lengthy school vacation, my mom would always ask my sister and me for a list of books that should could bring home, and we made various trips back to the school throughout the summer to replenish our selection.

I didn’t get to experience the refuge a library could provide until I started my junior year of college. Long story short, I needed a quiet place on campus and the library offered that sanctuary. Of course, I did work at the library as well so I was constantly able to scope out new seats that were cozy and semi-secluded but also presented ample opportunity for people watching. Whether I was studying, finding books  and sources for my various papers, or just seeking warmth between classes in early February, the library offered the sense of security I was searching for in a relatively uncertain time.

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Do you have any special memories involving libraries? What did you think of Rao’s piece?

 

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