“She said they can get anything published in Britain, ever, it doesn’t matter about out of print. […]
Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.”
-Jo Walton, Among Others
Lately I’ve been borrowing books from the library. Most of them weren’t even in the building when I first looked: I clicked away online, and someone far away put them on a truck and sent them over just so I could read them. Soon I’ll give them back and someone else will read them, or a kid will stack them into a fort somewhere around G in the Fiction shelves. Which, by the way, is another way of respecting books, and should be encouraged. But keep an eye out near Fiction.
When I think about civilization, I think about roads and pyramids, laws and technologies, rights and representatives and spaceships and fortunes. Those things are powerful. They’re important to think about. But civilization is quiet, too, and unremarkable unless you look closely. The chance to quietly learn from each other, and to help each other learn; the chance to hear voices from across the world and down through time; the help of a librarian typing an interlibrary loan; these are wonders of the world. When I think about the world I want to work for, I think about a girl going to the library. I think about a librarian listening to what she wants to learn, having a sip of his tea, and making sure it gets to her.
Glory’s a funny word. What should make us famous? What makes a civilization splendid? What makes us proud? I imagine King Arthur, holding up Excalibur. And then I imagine Jo Walton’s child, holding up her library card.