Sunday, March 20, 2011

Disturbing look at dead library

I was rather shocked to watch the video and see the photos posted over at deTROITfuUNK, of the now deceased Mark Twain Library. The images are a powerful look at what could happen in other communities if we allow the government to cut funding and close branches of public libraries. I'm not saying they must stay as is, but they need our support - as communities, and from the government.

I tried to get a bit of a back story and discovered that a "Mark Twain annex" opened at a church in 1998. I wondered if they just never fixed the original building. I know nothing about Detroit so I was not familiar with the situation there.

In the comments section, someone named Eastside Al gives the real story, apparently, which makes the tragedy of these images all the more frustrating:

I’m horrified by these pictures of what was the library of my childhood. I spent many happy hours sitting and reading in the children’s room here while my mother tended to other business in the grown-up books section or at the nearby Sears store.

I’m also furiously angry. The reason why there are so many books left here and so much furniture is that this library was only supposed to be temporarily closed. The people in the neighborhood just wanted the roof and the heat repaired swiftly, but the DPL insisted that they should do a major renovation and that we’d all have a beautiful like-new library when they were done in about a year. If anyone here remembers the late ’90s “empowerment zone” years, the money seemed to be there to do it then.

Well, a year dragged out to 2 then 3, and little progress was made. There were apparently “contractor problems” Some of the books were moved to the “annex” library in a nearby church hall, after people in the area complained and complained. And then asbestos was “discovered” (what, they didn’t know it was going to be there in a 70 year old building?) which was used as an excuse to discontinue all work. We were all promised that this stoppage would be temporary too, while they worked out a plan to deal with the asbestos. Yeah, right.

Then the building sat… and sat… and sat… and the library people and the city stopped answering our calls, and acted like they’d never heard of the building when we did get ahold of them. The interior got progressively more damaged by the original problem that had never been fixed – a leaking roof – and then, of course, the scrappers and ‘explorers’ came, and it ended up in the state you see today.

This city can make me so sick sometimes.
The blogger later notes, in the comments:
And for the historical record, the building bears his name in direct commemoration of the man – by that I mean he was given the honor in person. His daughter Clara Clemons (she was married to the director of the DSO) lived in Boston Edison, and Mark Twain was therefore a person who was associated with Detroit during that time period. I believe the building itself deserves historic protection due to its history, as well as being a Wirt Rowland design.
Here in Boston, Mayor Menino once again threatened library closures in January, after failing to get any closed last year. The same is happening in Los Angeles and surely other cities.

I've said it before - we should take a lesson from the Brits, whose libraries are under general threat, and organize a strong resistance.

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