Libraries, specifically public libraries, are a kind of secular sanctuary for me. It’s quiet. There are few interruptions to dozing, to thinking or to total absorption in reading. It demands as much or as little from you as you feel like giving. It presents the best (and worst) of humanity, in a most civilized way. Best of all, you don’t have to keep the books. They take them back. (Anyone who has had to pack and move box after box after box of books should sympathize with this point.)

A lot of my early perspective on the world was formed from the contents of public libraries. Isaac Asimov describes it much more eloquently than I could:

I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough.
My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library.
For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it.

I, Asimov. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Isaac ASIMOV


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