Indispensable

Valley Voice

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63

A story in the June 13 News-Record balanced two public agencies, the library and the Old Mill Museum, in a lucid report on their modest budget needs before the City Council.

The match is appropriate. The community library is a precious storehouse of knowledge and intelligence, thanks in the beginning to Johann Gutenberg and the invention of movable type. The Old Mill and Swedish Heritage Museum, recently taken under the City’s wing, is a place with a particular store of history, of moving rollers, of the tools and inventions, the passion and lineage of settlers who persevered to make a town.

A Museum is a library as much as our Bibliotek. Each holds its record of people, places, events ‒ the voyages, superstitions, wars and romances, the incantations of people who wanted others to know how lives have been made and threatened and blessed.

Libraries are about accurate recollection. They help us connect to reality by exercising our memory. Our own stores of information are stocked by reading, and today even the pages of a video online can be turned back, like the pages of a book, to review a part we didn’t quite understand.

Libraries and their museum cousins are crucial in helping us acquire a wider and more useful picture of reality. Our own world is small in scope, limited to what we can see, hear and fiddle with. The world at large is still the same size, but to those who read and remember, it is enormous and terribly complicated and presents enormous realities ‒ the history of nations, cultures, religions, politics, a total story of man from biology to cyber-tech.

We can’t possibly read everything but with libraries and museums we have access, the freedom to explore, to question, to find out. Libraries open the way to at least enough education to know the difference between the contaminated essay and the honest tract, between hysterical preaching and carefully researched data.

Libraries and museums are access to the geography of nations and the world, the connections among rain forest and desert, the life of the sea and its ice caps, the history of great climate changes and what they mean for famine or abundance.

The plagues and superstitions about our bodies, the physical condition of man, the future of genetic heritage research, the ability of science to prolong life, the role of health care and welfare, all and more wait among the covers on a library shelf and in the rooms of a museum.

Libraries hold enough fiction, history, poetry, political science, music, philosophy and photography to present the equivalent of a liberal arts education without the cost of tuition. Museums show us how people lived, what held their faith and moved them to endure, to make life more livable. Both can inspire a passion to learn more and remember more, to see a bit more clearly where we have been, how we got here, where we’re headed.

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