Make it New: Libraries

by Amanda C.R. Clark

In that grisly but summoning 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, a bloody, nearly broken, nearly dead Christ faces his mother, saying, “See, mother, I make all things new.”  This is the audacious promise of Christianity: that we are broken, fallen, and completely a mess, and yet, there is the promise of all things being made new, in fact, are made new, now, in this moment, in this expanding present that is always before us and always supersedes and triumphs over our own checkered pasts.

How do I keep things new for those who work with me? There is a freshness of spring that we all crave, that is needed to sustain us through life, as our personal seasons elongate over time, late summers that move toward longer autumns and transition into extended winters. What haunts my waking dreams is the library; a sacred space, richly textured with human spines and book spines, crinkly papers, and dusty tomes. How do I make these perennial objects of desire—those recorded and those we wish to find—new to those who do not see the library as I see it?

I feel it slipping away. The bastion of books is revered only by a few. I encounter many persons, librarians among them, who see no future in the library as a unique place steeped in history and worthy of preserving. If you are a person who prays, I entreat you to say a little prayer for the library as a beautiful sanctuary of exploration. Pray that it will not be re-made in a new way, but that it may be new now, as it was, and as I hope it always will be.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once entreated all who understand the value of reading and books: “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”

Amanda C. R. Clark received her Doctor of Philosophy from The University of Alabama, completing her doctoral work on the study of contemporary artists’ books. She holds a Master of Library and Information Studies degree, and, additionally, Master and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Oregon in the fields of Western architectural history and Asian art. She is currently the director of the library at Whitworth University.

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