I’m grateful for all the usual things. I’m lucky not to have to worry about clean water, cholera, mudslides, gang violence, political oppression, an adequate diet, and so on and on. Middle-class Americans are set apart from so much of the rest of the world in our good fortune. Closer to home, I appreciate my good health, my healthy family, my home, my dog, my friends, our jobs, and all the undeserved good fortune I’ve experienced.
Yesterday, though, I was giving some thought to a very specific object of my gratitude: the public library.
I stopped in to the Heights Main Library to return three books. Browsing among the new books, I picked up Michael Caine’s new memoir The Elephant to Hollywood and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. (She wrote the gripping Seabiscuit in 2001.) While I was there, I also explored the magazines and got the idea to take home some Christmas, 2009, issues of Oprah and Martha Stewart Living to check out decorating and craft ideas I will never use.
How awful it would be, I thought, if the libraries were to go away. What if the small-government people decide that libraries cost too much, and people just need to fork over their $ to buy all their books and further the capitalist cause? What if we all have to buy a Kindle and pay $10 or more for every book we want to read? What will I do if the libraries go away?
Other things I like have gone away. We used to have three actual grocery stores — one large one and two smaller ones — within walking distance of our house. They have all closed. About a mile away, we had a shopping center with a terrific deli, a movie theater, a great stationery store (not an Office Max!) and lots of other cool shops. It’s been razed, and the big, bare field there now has been awaiting further development. The Cleveland Indians went away from our basic TV stations. Our neighborhood ice-cream shop and bargain movie house have gone away. Card catalogs have gone away. Telephone books have almost gone away.
If libraries went away, I wouldn’t now be reading Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds. After viewing a BBC production of his novel He Knew He Was Right, I realized that Trollope, whom I always liked, had written a whole bunch of novels I’d never read. How lucky for me! There’s a whole shelf of Trollope at the Cleveland State Michael Schwartz Library at my fingertips.
What about you? What are you grateful for?