Imagine 17 women trying to cram into a tiny space, lined on three sides with bookcases, to discuss Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor’s biography. Some sat in children’s chairs in the small East Asheville library.
The librarian concluded that maybe no children would come after 6:30 p.m., and the book club could circle chairs in an adjacent space. Still, there was little space between members and shelving.
It’s not the first time they’d squeezed in a small space. Once before, a parent and child came in asking if her child could peruse the bookshelves behind the club members’ chairs.
While we met, regular library business made hearing difficult. And just as surely, the book club’s discussion was a distraction for other patrons.
The county is in charge of the library, but the city owns the two 1960s buildings; one doubled for years as the library’s community meeting space until the city leased it to LEAF for $1 a year. Sometimes that leased space is available to the book club, but this December night, it was not opened.
The LEAF building was dark as members walked to their cars on this very dark night. A weak, movement-sensitive streetlight came on for about 10 seconds, not bright enough or long enough to find and get in cars. (And did I mention the bathrooms have to be entered outside — in the dark?)
Asheville: center for creative arts and intellectual pursuits. East Asheville library: the fourth-most-used library in the system.
Yet poor Asheville government can’t provide what’s called the “core of communities.” The American Library Association says, “In the digital age more than ever … 21st-century libraries are engines of societal and personal change and progress.” Libraries “foster education, literacy, research, business incubation, job training, civic involvement” and more. Poor Asheville.
– Emily L. Cooper