The Library: Hallowed Ground

As part of a “getting to know you” game, we were asked at a dinner to show something we had in our wallets that was of importance to us.  That night, I found three library cards in my purse.  We lived in a community that had two libraries with a nearby university library, which was also a community library.  Obviously, those library cards were what I shared with the others.

It’s my personality type, and the Humanist in me, always wanting to explore new ideas.  Libraries are full of them, the thoughts and dreams of others just crammed onto the shelves, twenty or so books between every bookend.  I can spend hours there.  I tell myself it’s like going to a world market and looking at everything for sale, and then being able to take home a bag of the best merchandise for free.

But it’s more than that.  Libraries are hallowed ground to me.  They are sacred places of freedom, where we are able to share our ideas with others, to learn about our world and our histories and dream of our futures together, just by pulling a book off of a shelf and opening it.  When I walk into a library, I am filled with excitement.  And then I become very peaceful, experiencing joy to be in a place that models in our communities our political ideals, and, in the case of Unitarian Universalists, our religious beliefs—freedom to learn, respect for each other, world knowledge at our fingertips, and the potential for understanding and compassion in allowing each other to explore our individual interests and choices and truths.

Victor Hugo wrote that, “A library implies an act of faith.”  That is what I feel when I visit the library, faith, hope, optimism.  Just inside the door, I always stop and honor the celebration of our innovation as people, and our possibilities.

On your next visit to the library, when you get inside, just stop and close your eyes and breathe for an instant.  And then share in the joyful celebration of books, of us.

Denise Benshoof

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