The library was shut down in March after a pipe burst in the
building where it was housed. The building is old, built in the 40s
when Altgeld was constructed as housing for black war workers, and
fixing the damage is expensive. City officials at the library, the
Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Public Schools are looking
for a replacement, and have some hope of a new plan being announced
soon. But until then, no library for the kids at Altgeld.
Last week, I was down at Altgeld with resident and community
advocate Cheryl Johnson. I asked her about the library closing and her
thoughts on what its meant to the kids she works with in the community.
“If they want to do homework, if they want to look something up on
the internet, they don’t have a place to do it,” she said. “What are
you telling our kids? Your only future mindset is to be a prisoner.”
The city is working on a plan to reopen the library. Both library
and CHA officials told me they hope to have something to announce soon
about when a new facility will open.
But sitting there at Altgeld, Cheryl asked me – if this happened in your neighborhood, how long do you think it would go on?
I don’t know, I said. But nine months later, I don’t think we’d still be waiting for an answer.
If my local library shut down for nine days with no word about when it would reopen, never mind nine months, people would have a fuckingcat with wings. I mean it, there would be riots. Not just because it’s the local kiddies’ source for all things Harry Potter, or a way to amuse the little nippers when school is out, though that’s a sizable part of it. And not just because of the mysticalthing about books and how stories bring us together and all that shit that gets writer-dorks like me hot, though that’s in there too.
Because it’s also a way for people out of work to job-search. If you don’t have a computer, you need a way to search for work online and send out e-mails and your resumé, not to mention something to format that stuff on in the first place. The computer labs and Internet portals are always jammed, there’s always a waiting list, there’s always a line. I take stuff like being able to log on to whatever job site or Craigslist whenever or Facebook or LinkedIn or blogs for granted so much, because I can, but if I couldn’t? I would LIVE at whatever place I could do those things, and for many people that’s the library.
Not to mention work experience for teenagers and volunteer experience that helps you build a resumé in a world where nobody wants to hire you to get the experience you need before you can get hired, and a place for the elderly to hang out and read the newspapers and magazines and whatnot. For God’s sake, if we’re going to smug on all day about how young people don’t read anymore and don’t know how to write in anything but AOL kiddiespeak, then how can we turn around and shut down places that foster a love of those things and the valuing of them?
This is what makes me so crazy all the time about glibertarian bullshit that people should just rise up and overcome whatever, like it’s easy, not understanding how this stuff actually works. I mean, just fucking THINK: The places you grew up, not just literally but intellectually, the places you went and felt safe, the places that had things you needed, the places that helped you, who would you be if those places didn’t exist? Who would you be if you didn’t have them to go to? And if you say you know, if you say you have any idea, you’re lying.