Hat Tip to Suzanne.
When I first saw the photos of the Mark Twain Branch of the Detroit Library on Facebook I thought they were a joke. A bad attempt at making some point about this or that policy. In just a few seconds of looking however I came to understand that what I was looking at was in fact reality.
That is when a flood of feelings came over me.
Sadness, some anger, and a deep sense of how lost we are as a society.
One can argue about the financial mismanagement and even political ineptness of those who made the choices over the years for Detroit. One can lay blame at the feet of every person who failed to step up and vote or care more about the city they lived in, or the community they called home. There are countless places that blame can be placed for the images that screamed out for some answer as to why and how such a thing could happen.
Having grown up in a small town with a local library the size of the back portion of a tiny house means that I understand the importance of these places for the mental expansion they provide to a community. Libraries nurture minds, and when one of them is shuttered, and in the case of the Mark Twain Branch allowed to decay in such a manner makes me aware of how far removed some are from the needs of their communities.
There is no way that anyone can defend the loss of those books. If there was no way to keep the library open, and I suspect there was, then for Pete’s Sake at least make sure the books were donated to a place they could have been used. Tap into local volunteer organizations to keep the doors open, and find some creative ways to make sure the lights were paid for. I can not accept that there was no way to prevent this closing, and then destruction of the library from happening. It had stunning architecture that evoked the mood of what a great library can offer.
While I am not privy to what must have been a long story to the closing of this library I am sure there must have some way to prevent it from happening. If not, then the loss I feel for what is happening to our society is even deeper. The library closed in 199s for renovations. Asbestos was discovered and it seems that was the end of the project. Fiscal woes were also a problem and the story unwinds from there. The Detroit Public Library Board confirmed in news reports at the time that despite passing a tax levy that explicitly included funds to renovate the Twain library, it intended to demolish the building instead.
While there are many places in Detroit that resemble the end of a rugged war I would hope all recognize the importance of libraries to the foundation of our neighborhoods and always do all we can to keep them open.
Granted I live in a city that has no fiscal disaster and where local revenues are sound. So perhaps I am so far removed from the angst of a place like Detroit that I have no perspective. But we all know the value of books and libraries, and surely sense the loss of this one.
The building was razed in 2011. Very sad indeed.