Title

Things fall apart

library

Day care for free. A relief station for the homeless. Odd amalgamating of public commons and cathedral hush. Your library, which you may not have re-entered since middle school.

It's been reported that 13 percent of adult Americans used a library last year to access the Internet's supposed replacement for the library's brick-and-mortar. They sat down among the shelves of processed wood product and went online mainly to find answers to health and wellness questions and to look for work. Anxious searches, I imagine, watched over by centuries of words about the human condition.

Story continues below

"Of asphodel, that greeny flower," Dr. William Carlos Williams wrote, thinking of what endures our disregard of it. And later in that long poem of love aimed at readers, he says,

My heart rouses / thinking to bring you news / of something / that concerns you / and concerns many men. / Look at / what passes for the new. /You will not find it there but in / despised poems. /It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.

Substitute libraries for poems, and (I think) you have not much abused the Rutherford doctor's meaning or his lament.

Soon, the downtown Central Library, eight regional libraries, and 64 neighborhood branches in Los Angeles will be closed on Sundays and the hours they are open during the rest of the week will be cut, expanding the opportunity to die miserably for want of what can be found there.

The city's libraries are already short 20 percent of their staffing because of a citywide hiring freeze and the loss of more than 100 employees taking early retirement. Another 100 library employees may be lost this year as the city cuts or redeploys about 4,000 staff members.

This loss is to stave off (but for how long?) the bankruptcy of Los Angeles.

The bankruptcy of everyday life is uniquely ugly. But it hardens you for the worsening to come.

The image on this page was made by Flickr user John Kannenberg. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading