Thursday, January 23, 2014
In my ceaseless desert wanderings of the internet I have come upon word that the Chicago Public Library is the best library in the country. I saw this at a distance, my eyes stinging with sand, my judgement dessicated by thirst, and I stumbled toward it, thinking there might finally be something to drink there.
There wasn't. It was another mirage. Is it all mirages on the Internet? Are we just warming our brains up here to be strapped into goggled VR suits, flailing at phantoms? Maybe. All I know is that I thirstily rushed towards the Chicago Public Library being the best library in the country and found...
There was a short, thin article I have no intention of directing you to here, referring with appalling generality to a German University Study that decided The Chicago Public Library is the very best library in all of our country. I needed at that point to look no further into it. Like Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe holding the essential clue, I had enough to know there was no merit there. Plus my mouth was full of sand.
Let's put it this way: What if my modestly esteemed local university, say, in The College of Liberal Arts, decided to fund and execute a study to determine the greatest novel ever written. Tirelessly they labor over this task, inputting parameters such as diversity of themes, social impact, clarity of grammatical construction, richness of humor, vocabulary, setting, and character. They devise elaborate computer programs, fabulous analyzing systems, and complex tabulations. They weigh citations, copies sold, even movies made. In the end, after millions and millions of pieces of information are correlated and compiled, they compute the winner.
And they do it all without reading a single book.
This, in the end, is how all these "best library" studies go, all attempts to judge by ingredients instead of taste. I do believe there is valuable information in the ingredients, but the taste is the soul, reading is the soul, walking into the library and using it is the soul. And to judge and use words like "best" in studies devoid of experience and soul is a fool's game. A folly that will leave you drinking sand, thinking that if it is damp enough it will quench your thirst.