Commentary – Some good things may not last

Joe McWilliams
I know for a fact people still read books. I met one of them a few weeks ago. He had no friends and the neighbours were throwing rocks at him.
The neighbourhood dogs were howling for a piece of his legs and his wife had just run off with his best friend, after their pickup truck broke down. Somebody’s writing a country song about it as we speak.

Just kidding! Actually the local libraries do a roaring business, tracking down books and other materials for their members and delivering them, free of charge, for pick-up at the local branch. This is a wonderful service, brought to you courtesy of your provincial government, in cooperation with the libraries.

Take advantage of it, because it might not last!

Take advantage of your public broadcaster too, because it might not last. Governments can’t be expected to always pay for all the stuff they used to pay for. There is a lot of pressure on to cut costs, which in some ways is probably a good thing. The people we entrust to spend public money absolutely should be going over everything they spend, every year, with a fine-toothed comb. They should cut where appropriate. This can’t be done without pain, but nobody ever said (who wasn’t lying or deluded) that public office was a bed of roses. That said, I hope public broadcasting and public libraries will be around for a long time to come.

There is a lot to be said for government support for libraries. Whoever dreamed them up was a very smart person (Benjamin Franklin?). Having a world of information accessible to the common person (not just the wealthy, in other words) was his aim, and it is as valid a view as ever.

But I’ve written about this subject before, and I really shouldn’t be repeating myself. I could write about how access to online literary resources could put libraries out of business. On the other hand, a lot of library patrons are people who don’t have access to their own online connection devices. I could write about how the Internet threatens to put newspapers out of business! But I won’t do that either. I’m too busy writing my own book.

It’s a book nobody will ever read, and there are probably other things I should be doing; things such as installing a new bathroom at home and other pressing DIY projects. I feel a bit guilty about spending hours on recent weekends typing up from memory a story about a youthful adventure from 40-odd years ago. But I find if I concentrate, it goes away, whimpering. The guilt, not the story.

That reminds me of a Mark Twain story about how he encountered his conscience in the form of a nasty imp that scampered around his house – always out of reach – mocking him and making him feel miserable about being who he (Twain) was and about doing the things he did. Eventually he figured out that by ignoring the little rascal he could weaken it and cause it to disappear or expire. Not that I would recommend ignoring one’s conscience. Twain wasn’t either. He was just being funny in his contrary and memorable way. I must read more of his stuff and I know exactly where I can get it without having to pay an arm and a leg.

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