Happiness is not good enough. Don’t rest on happiness. I mean it’s okay and I hope you are all happy, but we got to do more than that.

Toni Morrison

Just one of many thought-provoking statements by Morrison in a 2010 conversation

with Angela Davis on libraries, literacy, and liberation (and so  much more) The discussion was republished this week as an episode of the New York Public Library podcast. I highly recommend listening to it. 

I think this quote stuck out to me the most because it rejects the centering of personal happiness as the ultimate goal. This rejection opens up the possibility of living a valuable, important, interesting life without having to be happy. Happiness is great, but it’s not the only thing that matters in life. 

Almost as important as the words were the ways the books felt and smelled. In turning the thick pages of old books, in heavy, cracked cardboard covers or vellum bindings, or the crumbling, flaky pages of other volumes, one could imagine what Marx might have felt as he held a particular tome in his hands while researching his great tracts in the Reading Room of the British Museum. In the cloying smells released when ancient volumes were opened up, one could sniff out hints of lost printing techniques and paper-making methods, of inks manufactured centuries ago.

Sasha Abramsky The House of Twenty Thousand Books. New York Review Books, 2015.

…a library is not just a reference service: it is also a place for the vulnerable. From the elderly gentleman whose only remaining human interaction is with library staff, to the isolated young mother who relishes the support and friendship that grows from a Baby Rhyme Time session, to a slow moving 30-something woman collecting her CDs, libraries are a haven in a world where community services are being ground down to nothing. I’ve always known libraries are vital, but now I understand that their worth cannot be measured in books alone.

A library is not just about books: it’s also a place for the vulnerable by Angela Clarke (via librariesbuildcommunity)

This is why it is a nice burn/joke when Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation asks the hated librarian how it feels to work when your job’s been made redundant by the Internet (I’m obviously paraphrasing) – but it’s not accurate. Libraries are important – and wonderful – not only for the information they store, but as places information lives, can be discovered, and shared.