Go in peace: A letter to a dying library
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ED NOTE: Henderson’s Galleria Library was one of two branches doomed by voters when they rejected a tax measure this month. Visiting on its last day, Nov. 21, Kristy Totten wrote a mournful note to the expiring space.
Dear Henderson Libraries Galleria branch,
Hi. How are you? Actually that is a stupid question to ask because I know how you are — you are dying. That is why I’ve come here today, to say goodbye, even though we have never met.
I admire your kind, though, and respect the service you provide. It’s just I’ve never had the distinct pleasure of meeting you. I’m sorry for the circumstances.
As you lie on your deathbed, with less than an hour to live, I wonder how you feel. Not because your short, three-year life has a fixed expiration date — hell, I would love to know when my time is coming; I wonder because I think you might feel like a dead rock star or an isolated “outside” artist. No one appreciated you while you were alive, but now that you’re going — gone, by the time anyone reads this — people are suddenly paying attention.
“Oh, it’s shame!” they say. “A tragedy.” “Too bad!”
But the truth is, they don’t really care. They chose this for you.
Is that a rude thing to say to a library on its death bed? I would think you want honesty. I would want the truth in my last moments. No fake tears or false comforts. They say it’s going to be OK, but we know the truth: It is not going to be OK.
I have been with you for 45 minutes now, and you’ve had only two guests. One was an older gent in a neon yellow shirt and black cap, with a gray braid trailing down his back. But he didn’t really come here to see you, to wish you farewell or a painless passing. No. He’s here for free wi-fi. It’s as if he ducked into your room to escape the rain. Nevermind that you’re trying to do something with dignity here. What’s the wireless password?
The other person I’ve seen is a smartly dressed saleswoman with thick glasses and a train case. She was taking a break at one of the tables outside your doors. She’s gone now, but another clerk has taken her place. The mall will be closed tomorrow for Thanksgiving, but it will reopen Friday. Your dining setup will be gone by then. I wonder if the sales girl knows that. Will it matter to her? There is a loungey area nearby, you know. With couches.
I just saw a couple wander in. They looked educated, bookish, concerned. Maybe they came to say goodbye to a librarian, but that would be unfortunate because the librarians aren’t here. Maybe the couple came to check out books. That, too, would be unfortunate because almost everything has been cleared from your shelves. There are maybe 20 books and a few dozen DVDs. I didn’t look at the titles closely because I came here to see you. And anyway, they’re leftovers and I’m sure they suck. No offense.
If I were you, I would be offended, though. Not by me, but by your treatment. Your shelves are bare, your furniture piled haphazardly in corners. You have nearly half an hour to live, and they have already placed you in a coffin. It will be easier this way. When 5 p.m. rolls around, all they will have to do is close the lid.
Not even the caretaker knows you. Your “friends” took the day off and left a visiting assistant to see you to the end. Too emotional, maybe, or maybe they’re just tired. Some of them have changed fields, I hear, and others will transfer to sister locations. I wonder if they will miss you. I will.
Even though I don’t really know you, I respect your work a great deal. I know what you’ve done for this city, and I admire it. All you’ve ever wanted to do was provide for the people. But in the end, they couldn’t — scratch that — wouldn’t provide for you.
I’m sorry, Galleria branch. And I’m sorry to say, your time is up.