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Feb
20
Writing Prompt 4 What’s the Story in this picture?

This piece was a challenge to write. The red in the background reminded me of a building under construction so I did some research and came up with this story, based on a real story.

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Shrouded in red canvas like a Chinese emperor several stories tall, the library was obscured from view. He had walked down 42nd street hundreds of times; marveled at the buildings iconic lions at its entrance. It was a gateway to Whitman’s manuscripts, the archives of Jack Kerouac, the Harlem Renaissance, and too many literary greats to comprehend. Three million books, like so many snowflakes, each unique unto itself, most will go unseen. To imagine that they would all be moved and buried somewhere in New Jersey confounded him. All this just to make way for coffee shops and computers didn’t make sense to him.

New York’s central library was closed for renovation. The plan was to move several million books out of the library to make way for more computer terminals and coffee shops. They say that’s what the public wants. He wondered what all those books must be thinking about the controversy over them. What would those books say about being sequestered? But they have already spoken, said what they had to say to the world. Now their words would be digitized, preserved and reduced to series of ones and zeros.

Although the library’s CEO, Tony Marx, claims that it will be possible to retrieve any volume from off-site storage within 24 hours, he wondered how accessible the books would really be. As a scholar, he knew that this library was unique. It was the only research library in the world where anyone could walk in—without any university credentials—and read any book, and when a public library takes its most prized holdings away from direct access, the affect on research is dimming.

Perhaps the red shrouds were a metaphor for the cloaking of thinking.