I usually write here from my perspective as a staff member at the Berryville Library, but I’m going to switch sides, if you will, for today and write from my perspective as a board member for our Friends of the Berryville Library group.
I’m probably not the best person to write a post about heroes in literature. As I’ve mentioned on here before, I’m usually much more drawn to the supporting characters or the, ahem, villains than the heroes. But every now and then, like a normal person, I really do like the protagonist of the story.
And to that end, since the Great American Read is going to be airing its episode about heroes next week on September 25th, now’s the perfect time to explore a little more about literary heroes.
Next Tuesday, September 18, the first of the themed Great American Read episodes will air. Titled “Who am I?” it focuses on books about self-identity and characters’ journeys. These themes are the classic catalysts of coming-of-age stories, which are admittedly one of my favorite genres. One of the ideas broached in the episode is that of reading a book at the right time.
This past weekend, Forbes published an op-ed that advocated for libraries being shut down and replaced by Amazon bookstores, all in the name of saving people tax money. Due to widespread public outrage, the piece has apparently been pulled, though it is still preserved on the Wayback Machine. I wrote this response while the article was still on Forbes’s website, and we are still posting it because we want to educate people about the role of public libraries and their very real value to their communities.
As someone who has spent the last 10 years working for the Berryville Public Library and is currently a member of our Friends of the Library board, I was horrified by the measures the Forbes editorial recommended. But I was also disturbed by the number of misconceptions that Panos Mourdoukoutas, the author of the piece, seems to have about what libraries actually do and the services they provide their communities.
He notes that in the past libraries provided resources like books, magazines, and journals, as well as quiet research places, comfortable places to enjoy books, space for community events, video rentals, and free internet access. However, according to his reasoning, these things can all be sought elsewhere, including Starbucks and Amazon bookstores.
I have been hearing these doom-and-gloom pronouncements about how outdated libraries are and how they are shortly on their way toward the fate of dinosaurs and dodos since I was first hired by a library. Inevitably, I have always found that they are perpetuated by people who have outdated ideas of what libraries do.
It’s that time of year again, where people are making resolutions and breaking resolutions. I tend to be more interested in and successful at book-related resolutions, which are more fun than regular resolutions, anyway.
For me, I have a few random literary resolutions this year. I always hesitate to pre-plan my reading too much because, quite frankly, I flit from one interest to another fairly quickly, so I know I am just setting myself up to fail if I have an overly rigid agenda of what I want to read for even a couple of months, let alone an entire year. But I have developed three that I think are achievable.