Thursday, July 10, 2008

The "how" and the "why" of life

In one of our branch libraries last autumn a woman who had returned from the UK (she having gone abroad some years previously to follow an educational programme) made some interesting observations on life as she knew it and as she saw it around her.
She said that: "So many people are going through life without realising anything near their full potential." Furthermore, she felt that opportunities (especially in the more rural areas) for realising that potential were limited. She was convinced that a local library with its books and related activities was vital.

Her thoughts reminded me of what the author Anne Fine said in her Open Mind radio lecture. "You must know", said Anne Fine "that lack of self-knowledge is at the root of an acknowledged amount of misery in people's lives, and all around us."

This has shades of Albert Camus, the Algerian-born French
author and philosopher, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957. Camus's father died in the war when Camus was very young, his mother was illiterate and had a bad speech defect. Camus defined poverty in the city of Algiers by saying
"a thirty -year -old workman has already played all the cards in his hand, he awaits the end between his wife and children."

Poverty, in Ireland or anywhere else, as we know, inflicts damage, physical and emotional damage, and a "profound spiritual damage."
Our libraries and our books can and do make people stop and think. In a very simple way they can, again according to Anne Fine, show people the "how" and "why" of life.
Libraries are the only institutions solely and in an independent way which are concerned with providing reading and informal educational experiences to all sections of the community. Libraries provide free reading in free public spaces that are unthreatening and non - commercial. They operate with a minimum of bureaucracy, and with the simplest of rules and regulations. Staff are non-judgmental and offer access to reading and education in an atmosphere that focuses on the development of the individual.

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