Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Confession Tuesday: Public Libraries
…It was a hot, hot summer vacation and I had to be at least eight for my grandparents allowed me to go to the library by myself. I can recall the book: A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" in 10 separate volumes, and I got the "In Which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water" story and read it the same day while sitting on the curb in front of some communist grocery store, waiting in line for whatever they were to bring in , especially meat and cheese that were difficult to find.
One delight of my growing up years were public libraries. Even the censored, unkempt Romanian ones. and particularly the ones belonging to the French Institute and the British Council –even though I could barely read in English back then. There is where I became acquainted to Spider Man, Asterix, Tintin and the story of a boy living in a totalitarian regime who evades in the most unusual way . a story I remember well even though I cannot recall the author...Maybe I should call myself lucky –because I was born in the capital and also because I grew up uptown, only few blocks away from the above mentioned institutes. Children in the smaller cities and even the ones living in the distant neighborhoods were not as luck as I.
This Sunday, my painted face preschoolers and I had finally got to see the first live puppet show: a version of "The Little Red Hen" staged by the Carnegie Public Library of Pittsburgh. The greatest thing about it- it is completely free. I have to admit that we are lucky that Pittsburgh has a good public library because I have to make it on a very tight budget. There will be another fun festival on June 6th. And plenty of other programs in-between. Not that there is no room for improvement as for example, there is only a very limited collection of books in foreign languages. But for now I can only hope that they will be able to keep the programs they have going on since their funds had been cut again. So, here I am crossing my fingers for a public program that really works around here. And wondering how can we change people's outlook on such programs?
I know the culture I had left is still tributary to the fifty years of "all that matters are nails and screw-heads". I also realize that this one has developed an individual sense of wealth & achievement for which anything that bears the label "public" is as bad as living on social assistance. But, among the people who filled the room as they brought their children to see the puppet show, there was not even one who looked as they were receiving public assistance. Because it is not just about opportunities for the people that cannot afford to pay for a show ticket or buy books rather than borrowing them…This is more about a new sense of what community (a city of people ) will mean in the 21st century.