An Ode to Libraries in the Path of The Patriot Act

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The day after President Bush renews the Patriot Act, writer Anne Lamott wants to put in a good word for the sacred place that libraries are and always should be. She says that libraries are more than just places to check out books or get free use of a computer.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. President Bush signed the renewal of the Patriot Act yesterday. That means that among other things, federal officials retain the ability to get records from libraries in connection with foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations. But people who received some subpoenas for library records can now challenge a gag order about the subpoenas in court. Anne Lamott is the author of many books including Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions and Traveling Mercies. She says that libraries are more than just places to check out books or use a computer for free.

ANNE LAMOTT (Author): Libraries are just about the last intelligence capabilities of which our country can actually be proud. My parents must be spinning in their graves like rotisserie chickens. They taught me to wander through the stacks of the Belvedere-Tiburon Library and to wander through a book letting it take me where it would. My parents and our librarian friend taught me that if you insist on having a destination when you come into a library, you're short changing yourself.

They read to live the way they also went to the beach, or ate delicious food. Reading was like breathing fresh ocean air or eating tomatoes from Old Man Gerbach's garden. Librarians along the way showed me the treasure hidden in bound stories. They taught me about the space between words, about the margins where so many juicy moments of life in spirit and friendship could be found. In a library, you can find small miracles in truths. And you might find something that will make you laugh so hard that you will be shushed in the friendliest way.

I have found sanctuary in libraries my whole life. And there is sanctuary there now from the war, from the storms of our families in our own minds. Libraries are like mountains or meadows or creeks, sacred space.

BLOCK: Anne Lamott is the author of Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. She lives in Northern, California.

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