Thursday, October 8, 2009

Library of the sidewalk

I love the idea of the library. Where else can you walk into a building and borrow books, on topics that number near infinity? With questionable educational systems at hand, there is still the library, where the motivated can discover the world of human thought and history. And it’s free, a service provided by all of us, a wonderful expression of a democratic community, one of America’s greatest traditions. If you need the perfect antithesis to the howling wilderness of anomie and selfishness that the right libertarians who worship at the feet of Ayn Rand desire in their pinched little hearts, the public library is it.

Well, as it happens, here in Brooklyn were have something in addition. The free lending library of the sidewalks. The other day, while wandering around the neighborhood, I passed at least six book give-aways. Most were small piles, just a couple of volumes on stoops, sidewalks, in boxes. There were computer books, genre fiction, and titles obviously from an academic reading list. The selection was random, serendipitous. I didn’t take any of them, this time -- for in my case desire must meet the realities of domestic square footage -- but I certainly have in the past, and just as readily put other volumes into circulation. Erasmus, who famously declared that whenever he got a little money he bought books, would have a field day here.

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