Like many people, the thing that’s hit me hardest about “the current happenstance” is the SHOCK of it. One day I’m able to amble down the Sierra Madre Public Library. I’m greeted with a smile. I take my time as I pursue my practiced routine: browse new fiction, browse new non-fiction, go into the stacks to find a book for my work, and then check out the new audiobooks and music CDs.
And then the very next day, this routine, one I’ve taken for granted, is gone. Vanished. The library…and restaurants, and stores and malls and Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl…are Forbidden Zones. This strange, terrifying invisible menace has vaporized the pleasant routines of daily life. Worse, there’s no definite end to it. Will the Library be closed a month? A year? Five years? (probably not five years, but still…)
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused me to appreciate what a treasure our library is. I was raised by two library lovers, and reading has been my passion as long as I can remember. There is no pleasure so great as escaping into a great book. And the library has thousands of them, in all forms! You can actually get a book of discs where a great voice actor will read you the latest best seller! The library is a shared repository of wonders, a magnificent resource that enriches our community. It makes us smarter, better informed, more considerate and more generous.
Beyond the value of the library as a place to get a great book, it’s also one of our most precious shared spaces: a place we all have in common. There’s Red American and Blue America: the library is Purple America. We meet, we mix, we get to know and trust each other.
I misspoke when I said this place is gone. The Sierra Madre Pubic Library is not gone. It’s still there, and when it re-opens, it will be better than ever. Why? Because no one will take it for granted anymore. Every time we walk in, we’ll remember this fraught time, and we’ll know what a pleasure and privilege it is to avail ourselves of the gifts of this wonderful place. Now, all we can do is wait and savor that great day to come.