The Benefits of Being Small

I was reading Chris Lambrecht’s article about the benefits of a library with a large diversity of authors, most of them not published in a traditional way, and it made me think of why I personally liked the library. I used to volunteer pretty regularly until school took over, but I’m trying to get back into it now that I have some free time again.

I think what I like about the Read/Write Library and about community projects and organizations in general is that they are small but powerful. I think you could compare the library to a sort of community coffee shop. I am thinking of a specific coffee shop.

It’s located in Rogers Park on the wrong side of the street – the buses going downtown go in the opposite direction, so people will get their morning coffee from the Seven Eleven instead of this coffee shop, which doesn’t really have a name – and it isn’t near any specific landmarks. The couple who owns it will tend to hire people just because they like the way they look. There is an elderly gentleman who washes the floors, and he doesn’t do it very efficiently, but he is a very sweet old man.

I remember in my accounting classes at school (I am a business major), we talk about efficiency a lot, and we talk about how it’s good to work for a big company because they will support you financially and give you health insurance, things that a young married couple would need if they wanted to start a family. Drinking coffee in my terribly inefficient coffee shop and being around the other college students (most of the people who drink there are students) made me realize that somehow I was part of something and I didn’t even know it until then – I was part of something just by being there.

The library is like that, too. Sometimes it feels good to be part of something small. There is a certain power to that smallness which in my opinion eclipses the power of forces beyond our control like McDonald’s or Time Warner. In the big history books, we won’t necessarily be able to take one down from the shelf and find our name, but we were still part of something small and precious, and somehow there are times when you hear someone talking, and what they say is so important (maybe they are talking about their past) – it is so important that it is actually scientifically proven to be much more important than Time Warner or McDonald’s – I think that even the Roman Empire or the United States of America recedes into the background when someone small and powerful is talking.

The library is full of voices like that. And anyone who participates at whatever level is part of that. For me, it’s a point of pride, and maybe for other people, they feel that way, too.

Todd Herskovitz

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