domingo, março 08, 2009

A lifelong journey begins with a visit to the library

A lifelong journey begins with a visit to the library
A whole new world is waiting for people just beyond the doors of our libraries, writes Joseph O'Connor

Sunday March 08 2009
ACOUPLE of weeks ago, I had occasion to be in the new library in Cavan town, a magnificent building much beloved by the community. I found, as I walked around it, that I was thinking of Sean, my father, who was born in the Liberties of Dublin in 1938. The map through which he moved as a boy had its grid-marks and lighthouses: Saint Nicholas of Myra church, Francis Street School, Meath Street, the Coombe, Bride Street, the local picture house. But the map of my father's childhood had other landmarks too -- the libraries of the city of Dublin.
An email he sent me recently details some of those wonderful places. 'The one most used by yours truly was Kevin Street Library, and it may be still there. It was right beside the site where the tech still stands. There was another one in Thomas Street, around the corner from Francis Street and up a bit. If you were in pursuit of something special, your chase would take you to Capel Street library, and sometimes to Inchicore library or Pearse Street. I visited all of them often, usually in pursuit of something exotic like The Cult of the Budgerigar, by an author called D Watmough, as I recall. The system was that children had to have a guarantor of the return of the books. It worked great for me, with my Uncle Joe as the guarantor until a certain day when I left a book behind me in a shop. I had to face the wrath of Uncle Joe when he got a letter from the Corpo looking for the cost. But all for art, I say!'
I believe, without the libraries of his Liberties childhood, that his future, and therefore mine, would have been different. All my life, I have been fortunate to have chances my grandparents' generation didn't have. I've been privileged to be able to study in university libraries, and in the beautiful National Library of Ireland. I've had a writer-in-residence fellowship at the New York Public Library, that magnificent oasis on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where an African immigrant's son called Barack Obama often went to read the job ads in the newspapers.
I remember my father coming to visit one day while I was there and wandering around the Rose Room, which contains 20,000 volumes, as happy and contented as ever I have seen him. And who would not be happy, in such a glorious place, surrounded by the riches of learning and literature, just waiting to be picked from the shelf? What else is there in the world that is really better or more valuable than the generosity embodied by a library?
It is open to all, the rich and the poor, the scholar, the student, the simple lover of books, the searcher through newspapers, the compiler, the collector, the family historian, the browser.
My father is 70 now. He reads every day. Poetry, criticism, short stories, the Old Testament, histories, biography, fiction. And he still believes in a noble idea first taught to him in his Francis Street childhood: that books are beautiful, that they answer our questions, take us on journeys, and assure us that we are not alone.
We've just had Library Ireland Week, a wonderful idea. Readings, meetings with authors, talks on computer technologies, all the new things our libraries can offer, and the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest people we have -- our magnificent, generous, knowledgeable librarians, who do so much for their communities and rarely receive our thanks, but they deserve all our gratitude and appreciation.
But the work done by our libraries continues every week of the year, and this is the deeper value to the library and everything it stands for. Somewhere in Ireland every week, a child will realise he or she wants to read, or perhaps would even dare to hope to write a story one day, and all because a parent took that child to a library and thereby opened up the whole world. That child might be Irish or from a country far away but will find in the library all that is best of us, available for free, to all. For the loyalty given by our librarians quietly changes lives, gives opportunities, new chances, brave hopes. And those wonderful places they preserve for our people are needed more than ever in these times.
The great poet John Donne put it better than most. 'All mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.'
Heaven is a library, the place we are translated. If you feel like a visit -- a return or a first -- now would be a good time to go.
Joseph O'Connor's Wednesday radio diary is specially commissioned for RTE One's 'Drivetime' with Mary Wilson.

FONTE: Irish Independent - Dublin,Ireland

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