The history of libraries can be found on Truckee shelves |

The history of libraries can be found on Truckee shelves

As the CEO of Nevada County prepares to make his recommendation to the Board of Supervisors per the fate of the Nevada County Library system and#8212; to privatize or not to privatize, to slash professional librarians from the budget or not, to downgrade services to children or not, etc., it seems like a perfect time to put our current library travails into an historical context. Can you tell I was a history major? When feeling insecure about the future, contextualize!

I didnand#8217;t have to search far, as I found three wonderful books right on the shelves of the Truckee Library, bridging ancient history to the present.

and#8220;Libraries in the Ancient Worldand#8221; by Lionel Casson tells the story of ancient libraries from their very beginnings, when and#8220;booksand#8221; were clay tablets and writing was a new phenomenon. This book takes a lively tour of the royal libraries of the ancient Near East, through private and public libraries of Greece and Rome, and the first Christian monastic libraries. Casson recounts the development of ancient library buildings, systems, holdings and patrons and explores the connection between the rise in education and literacy and the growth of libraries.

Matthew Battles hails from a similar background to mine, the rarefied world of special collections, archives, and rare books. He works at the Houghton Library at Harvard University. In and#8220;Library: An Unquiet Historyand#8221; he surveys the grand swath of library history, starting, once again, with those clay tablet libraries of ancient Mesopotamia. He argues that the library has been a battleground of competing notions of what books mean to us, serving two contradictory impulses: The urge to exalt canons of literature and the desire to contain and control all forms of human knowledge.

Last but not least, there is Don Borchertand#8217;s and#8220;Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library,and#8221; a comic memoir firmly rooted in the present. Borchert contends that the public library was once a place for the bookish, the eggheaded, and the studious-often seeking refuge from a loud, irrational and crude outside world. No longer. He offers readers a ringside seat to the unlikely spectacle of mayhem and absurdity that is business as usual in a large public library: Cops busting drug dealers in the menand#8217;s restroom, a burka-wearing employee who suffers a nervous breakdown, a lonely kid who grew up in the library and still sends postcards to his surrogate parents and#8212; the librarians. Okay, not exactly the Truckee Library, but hilarious nonetheless. He ends his introduction with the following sage advice: and#8220;Support your local library. Get a library card. Pay your (expletive deleted) fines. Man up for Christand#8217;s sake. Be a little responsible. And if thereand#8217;s any shushing to be done, let it be done by a professional. Me.and#8221;

Long live the public library, here and everywhere!

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors will consider and#8212; and most likely vote on and#8212; outsourcing at their Feb. 23 meeting. Attend the meeting in Nevada City. E-mail for carpooling information. Visit and for more information.

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