Sunday, July 16, 2006

More Thoroughly Unmodern Millie

It occurred to me today just how lousy the photos of the Millicent library I've been posting are. Well, there's nothing I can do about it now. You're going to have to put up with them. They're all we've got, and the subject matter will carry the day, anyway. Think of them as snapshots, not photographs, and we'll all be fine. You try taking photos with a camera with a four secong lag between depressing the button and making an image, with a three year old clinging to you like a rabid monkey because he's afraid of the life sized baby gorilla stuffed animal in the children's reading room.

Here's one from atop the book stacks:

The Millicent Library makes the same mistake most libraries do; it attempts to compete in a half-hearted way with and Blockbuster Video, with its only selling point that you pay in advance in your tax bill instead of at a checkout counter -- thereby allowing you to imagine it's "free." The only analogy I can come up with is a bad buffet. You keep telling yourself you don't mind how terrible the food is, because after you pay, it's all free!

I' m not the sort of person that thinks that no one needs what I don't want. I am irked by persons that say they are vegetarians, for instance, so no one needs meat, and so forth. The supermarket of life would be very small, if tailored to one person. But you'd need a lot of them.

The library tries to be everything to all people, and so must fail us all. Why do they have Ishtar VCR tapes and Eminem records and Harlequin Romance novels by the metric tonne? Is the library no different than the swap shelf outside the ladies room at work?

Well, there's worthwhile stuff there too. And if you paw around enough, you can find what the library should concentrate on: out-of -print hardcover books that inform and delight, a true repository of value, not a pile of stuff. Book burning isn't evil, if the books are worth more as BTUs than information.

There's plenty of fine flotsam among the quotidian jetsam in there, so I'm not going to complain; especially since you can grab that book and read it in series of rooms like this:


XWL said...

Trying to be all things to all people is a blueprint for failure.

Private (but usually non-profit) libraries that concentrate on a particular subject area, are almost universally superior in their given subject area, to even the largest and best funded public libraries.

(my local favorites here and here)

I should do a photo essay on the ugliness of the recently completed (at a total cost of $75Million, original budget $25M) Santa Monica Public Library.

SippicanCottage said...

xwl- I agree. I think the libraries should specialize in things you can't get readily elsewhere.

I'm put in mind of a musty old comment Don Imus made back when he was relevant. The AM stations were adding him to their lineup, and he was expanding from his base in NYC.

The station managers would tell the syndicators that all the calls they got at first were negative; "we want the old morning zoo or the crop report" or whatever. They'd get nervous and get cold feet about switching.

Imus said: "Of course they complained; they liked what you had on before. That's why they were listening to it. It's the people you drove away with that crap we're trying to get to listen to us now."

The library is like that. They need to make a leap of faith that if they become serious curators of information they'll be able to survive the loss of folks that want to read ladies home journal without a subscription or rent VHS tapes for less than blockbuster.

I miss Santa Monica sometimes, by the way. Lived there 25 years ago.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I imagine that just as in many other areas of life, it's all about the numbers.

The goal is probably increased 'patron usage,' and libraries that can show more stuff being moved get more money.

The sad part is they've probably convinced themselves they're doing everyone a favor by getting them away from the TV -- even though they're giving people the same crap that's on TV in a different format and location, thus encouraging folks to think they're 'educated' because they're consuming junk in a library.

P.S. Did we mention the bookmobiles? You hardly have to get up from your recliner!

XWL - Is that Ganesha on the intro page for the Jung Institute?

XWL said...

That's correct, that would be the remover of all obstacles, one of the friendlier avatars of Brahma (all is Brahma for Hindus, the world is illusion, you know, the usual)

Hinduism is an unending labryinth of relationships and mutability (and unimaginable timescales) with regards to how they describe their gods (though all is Brahma, so despite all the avatars and manifestation, they are in a sense monotheistic).

In other words, a perfect way to look at the human mind (also an unending labryinth of relationships and mutability).

Hinduism is as a fascinating, complex, and psychologically sophisticated faith at its most philosophical that you will find on this globe, yet with its castes and ritual also capable of imposing the most mind-boggling misery on many of its adherents.

Humanity is wondrously contradictory.

This book of Heinreich Zimmer's work edited by Joseph Campbell is a great place to start, if you want to dip your toe into that river.