November 4, 2015
A library is a very special place. Surrounded by thousands, maybe scores of thousands, of books, the library patron is immersed in the wit and wisdom of authors from around the world. The one who reads is the one who cannot be held down in a mindless job (not that there is such a job) or circumstances beyond control. One can earn a living at almost any occupation and come home to that priceless collection of ideas just borrowed from the local library. One might even be beating the streets in search of a suitable job but when that day’s work is done a book can be there to sharpen the mind and transport the imagination.
Many societies throughout this world’s short and brutal history have elevated themselves through the medium of the library. If you go to Ephesus near Turkey’s central Aegean coastline (now just a magnificent ruin), you will find the Library of Celsus, a colossal ruin of stone columns and stone walls that once housed thousands of volumes of science and literature. Travel a little further to the east and you will find the rubble of Byblos, on the coast of modern Syria, and its library that predates Celsus by at least a thousand years. It is now reburied in political, military, and professional rivalries and not likely to resurface any time soon.
Here’s one more example of an ancient library: Alexandria, Egypt, established sometime in the third century BC and possibly the largest in antiquity. The Romans recognized its value, not as a source of knowledge and inspiration, but as a fuel source to warm their baths. Now its store of knowledge of the ancient world is lost to all but the Almighty.
The library is one of our most potent of tools for shaping minds and influencing posterity. In a library one is surrounded by ideas, steeped in history, awed by science and art, captivated by literature and philosophy. There’s something about a book, a real paper book crafted from the fiber of our forests and overspread by the marks of the author that is exciting and at the same time thoughtful, imaginative, and stimulating.
Chetwynd has a library of which we all should be proud. It does not physically contain all the books of the world but, through the magic of interlibrary loan, there are few books in print that you cannot eventually hold in your sweaty hands.
When I was a child growing up in this valley life was primitive by our standards. The first school had not yet rung its bell and we certainly didn’t have a public library. But, in the wisdom of the greater society, books were available and how exciting it was to receive the bulky package every six weeks (postage paid in both directions)!
Chetwynd’s library is well used but this community needs to be eternally vigilant to ensure that the clamour for other things, good in themselves, does not eclipse the need for culture of the mind.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor