I grew up in a small northern New England farming community where most of the roads were dirt, there were more cows than people, and the school was a single room heated by a woodstove. Kids who were bad didn’t get detention; they had to stay after school and either chop stovelengths or sprinkle lime in the privies.
Of course there was no town library, but in the deserted Methodist parsonage about a quarter of a mile from the house where my brother David and I grew up, there was one room piled high with mouldering books, many of them the size of telephone directories. A good percentage of them were boys’ books of the sort our British cousins call “ripping yarns”. David and I were voracious readers, a habit we got from our mother, and we fell upon this trove like hungry men on a chicken dinner.
There was no library, but in the early Sixties, the library came to us. Once a month a lumbering green van pulled up in front of our tiny school. Written on the side in large gold letters was State of Maine Bookmobile. The driver-librarian was a hefty lady who liked kids almost as much as she liked books, and she was always willing to make a suggestion. One day, after I’d spent 20 minutes pulling books from the shelves in the section marked Young Readers and then replacing them again, she asked me what sort of book I was looking for.
Libraries provide all residents with unlimited access to the reading and information resources that will mean the difference between success and failure for Swampscott residents as individuals, Swampscott as a town, and the United States as a nation. They are supported by a very modest contribution of public tax funds, and provide a fabulous return on this investment by any measure. Sure, the library is an old fashioned concept. So is democracy. So is equal opportunity. So is getting your facts right.