Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It is interesting to me that Reading Room is somehow causing controversy. Apparently, it is being thought of as anti-library by some people. I am not sure how this conclusion was drawn. In my project description, I wrote:

"Part of Walker Art Center's Open Field Field Office Fellowship program, Reading Room is an experiment in intention. Finding myself unable or unwilling to make time for personal, nonwork pleasure book reading, I realized that I would, probably, actually pay to go somewhere, preferably a quiet place with comfortable chairs, proper lighting, and no electronics, and read. In our busy lives, will book lovers actually make time, intentionally, to go to a designated place solely to read a book, for an extended period of time, unplugged? Does reading (a solitary act) somehow become more attractive, more meaningful when surrounded by others (a crowd) who also have taken time to intentionally read? By putting a frame around the act of reading, will participants somehow gain a new appreciation for their time, and take Reading Room on the road?"

Perhaps the sentence: "I realized that I would, probably, actually pay to go somewhere, preferably a quiet place with comfortable chairs, proper lighting, and no electronics, and read" caused the misunderstanding? (First of all, why would you care if chose to pay for this?) But surely, if you were on the Open Field blog anyway, you would understand that this was a free event. Or, if you were to look into who was putting this event on, on the internets, you would easily be able to see that 1) I am a book publisher and 2) I serve on the board of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.

Let's assume you didn't have that information. I am still unclear on how Reading Room could be considered anti-library. If you one wants to go read in a library, please, by all means, go read in a library. It's not an either / or proposition.

At its most basic, Reading Room draws attention to reading. Period. I consider that a good thing. It asks anyone who hears about it to think about reading and the role it plays in their life. If you don't read, then you don't need to think about it. If you do read, and, if you are like some people, you wish you had more time to read, just knowing about Reading Room might prompt you to read (at your house, at the library, on the bus, in a bar, in a park, or at Reading Room). You might decide, "hey, reading is important to me, I think I will make it a priority in my life."

Or not. I've said multiple times that if you don't want to read, then don't. This isn't about trying to get more people to read. That's not a battle I wish to fight. But the fact is, there are lots of people who do find reading worthwhile. Reading Room is for them.

This is not a perfect analogy, but it's close: There are grocery stores. Most meals are eaten by people prepared from the groceries they buy. There are restaurants. There are many restaurants. The existence of a restaurant does not supplant the existence of a grocery store. It in no way threatens it.

Did Reading Room get you to think about reading yet? Did Reading Room get you to think about libraries yet? Did Reading Room get you to think about the place reading has in your life? Yes? o.k. No? o.k.

It's true that libraries, like many public services, are facing increasing budget cuts. And they are facing increasing budget cuts in a time when library use is through the roof. Libraries are a vital part of a democracy, and an informed citizenry. I love them. I love reading in them. I love them love them love them.

In fact, I would invite you to join me in supporting libraries by making a donation to the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, which "enriches the resources and enhances the potential of the Hennepin County Library." If you love libraries enough to think they are threatened by Reading Room, then this is clearly something you care about too.

Donate here.

If you are unable to donate, you can also choose to volunteer.

If you are feeling really ambitious, you could talk to your elected County Commissioner about how you support libraries and ask them to please maintain or increase their funding.

At the very least, like them on Facebook or Twitter or something.

Reading Room is just something I thought of. I told someone about it and they asked me to put it on. A space was provided. It doesn't have to be in that space. It can be anywhere. It should be everywhere.

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