Ray Bradbury's ode to the library that raised him, which just closed

"Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries, because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years." Ray Bradbury, on the library he loves the most, which has just closed -- like many other libraries around the US.


  1. YES! Although I now attend a community college, my True education came from the Libraries. We had no T.V. when I was a kid, so when the Book-mobile visited twice a week it was a treat. Then the County built a library and it was Wonderful! They had all the books you could read AND air-conditioning (Florida summers). The only rivals to the learning I found there are the stacks of old National Geographics that my Mom would bring from houses she cleaned, and the Internet.
    I wish Librarians, Scientists and Teachers were more valued/honoured/PAID. Scientists expand our Knowledge. Teachers spread Knowledge. Librarians Safeguard Knowledge. Thank you, if you belong to one of those groups.

  2. wow, thank you…I now love Ray Bradbury even more.

    I have never understood why it’s considered “educational” to pay thousands of dollars to go live in a dorm and get drunk every day, and it’s not considered “educational” to go and learn things on your own without the benefit of a college campus.

    And YES, I know that not all college students spend their time drinking and not going to class, but I know that a lot of them do. I also know that many colleges require students to take classes that have no value (i.e. Art Appreciation at Western Oregon State College in the nineties was simply a forum for the art professor to endlessly show slides of his own horrible pottery for the class to comment on…this was required WHY??).

    I really wish that there was an option in this country to “test out” of things. If I can pass a test that shows I know a subject backwards and forwards, I should be able to get a piece of paper that certifies my knowledge. But apparently I can’t get that without 4 years of my time and thousands of dollars of my money.

  3. Libraries ROCK! (Full disclosure: I’m currently attending school for my MLIS) I’m a library/book geek, and it saddens me to hear my teachers continually referencing library closures and cutbacks. I tell ya, the day the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to fund one of their bombers…oh? Heard it already?
    Check out your local public library—the range of services offered by libraries today is quite staggering.
    And as for libraries on the internet—check out the IPL: Need an answer to whatever question you can’t seem to find on Teh Gogle? Submit your question online, and within 24-72 hours, you’ll get a detailed answer, with vetted sources, for free: The Internet Public Library @ http://www.ipl.org has what you need.

  4. Love libraries, love Ray Bradbury. Always been kind of iffy on his “not believing in colleges and universities” though. Bradbury’s self-educated approach obviously worked well for his own distinct flavor of prose and fiction, but it’s hard to imagine a Neal Stephenson or Isaac Asimov (or Cory Doctorow!) coming to be in a world where all writers eschewed higher learning.

    1. Can’t say for Stephenson or Doctorow, but worth noting that Asimov wrote 400-500 books, many nonfiction on topic completely removed from chemistry (which is what he studied in college). Probably couldn’t have done it without the formal ed, but certainly couldn’t have done it without the library either! ( not that you were arguing against that or anything :) )

      1. Also worth noting that Asimov is the only author listed in every section of the Dewey Decimal System. Going for that achievement would seem to make him a library geek, too.

  5. The role of the library has changed dramatically since Bradbury was young. But free access to information is still really, really important. Books and research information are not something you can always get on the Internet. Even if they are, libraries are now a free Internet hub for those who cannot use the Internet anywhere else. I am not currently a librarian, but I loved watching from the reference desk as kids find a safe place to study and to get their YA Fiction fix, answering difficult questions or finding correct resources for patrons. When younger kids come in with a class trip, their eyes light up when they see all the books they can look at and read. The library is literally unique in its purpose. No other place has such freedom and I hope that libraries continue to get with the times so that they stay around forever.

    BS CS
    BS Psychology

  6. Ray grew up in Los Angeles. I’m confused as to how he would have gotten to a library in Ventura 3 days a week–during the depression, no less…

    1. I know we here in Los Angeles have the reputation for being illiterate airheads, but we actually have quite a few libraries. According to “Libraries of Los Angeles and Vicinity” edited by Ralph Lester Power (1921), the Los Angeles Public Library was established in 1872, and Bradbury could’ve gone there or to one of the other county libraries in the vicinity.

    2. Bradbury’s first library was the old one in Waukegan, Illinois. That one had moved to a newer building by the time I browsed the same books there. We discussed this after I moved to SoCal and he came to speak at the dedication of the new library in Placentia.

  7. The article mentions that many libraries have had to cut their hours because of budget cuts. So I’d like to thank the New York Public Library for *expanding* their hours in recognition of the fact that people need the library most when times are tough.


  8. Whitechapel library in London closed a couple of years ago and has been replaced by an extension of the Whitechapel gallery next door; consisting of extra space they don’t need.

    It’s currently showing a small selection of work from the Arts Council collectionm and a massively irritating show by a curator/artist hybrid, which surrounds a fifties tapestry of Guernica with irrelevant material. Added to this there is an overpriced brasserie restaurant to complement the already existing overpriced cafe. Grrr.

  9. What are all these closed libraries doing with their books? We have the crappy library from hell and could use some donations. When you live in a retirement resort, the library is heavy on Danielle Steele and light on Isaac Asimov.

  10. Okay, I need to get to Lynn’s beautiful library before it closes. I haven’t been reading less, I’ve just been buying cheap books from the used bookstore. Time to tweak my reading habits.

  11. Wonderful! I never knew this!

    I too received the vast majority of my education from my local public library. I was never a particularly good student in HS – I simply did not do well in a structured learning environment. When I graduated, my grades did not permit any worthwhile financial aide. Coming from a family of modest means, college was not an option. Instead, I spent years at the public library, reading and researching whatever struck my interest.

    I remember our library had an Apple IIe computer that you could ‘rent’ for an hour at a time. For months, I read every book I could understand about computers and BASIC programming. Each day, I would laboriously type my computer programs into the system’s memory line by line. At the end of my hour, I’d print out my program and turn off the computer, returning the next day to start typing it in all over again. I remember my amazement when one day the guy after me pulled out a ‘floppy disk’ and loaded is program into memory. That day, I made my first computer purchase: a 3-pack of 5 1/4″ SS-SD floppies.

    Later, I figured out how to bypass certain library controls on their VT-100 card-catalog terminals and access the then university/research-only Internet (actually Usenet, and Telnet). I remember coming home that day to tell my parents about talking to someone in Europe over the computer, and my amazement and realization of cyberspace – the feeling that this would change the world.

    I checked out records and later CDs of bands and artists that I had never heard of, simply because I liked the cover.

    I read about art, music, philosophy, technology, science, biology – whatever I was curious about that day.

    Today I am a very successful technology consultant, making 6-figures, guiding corporations staffed with Ivy-league management teams and staff.

    I have always tried to keep the fact that I gained my education from bumming around libraries my dirty little secret – today’s society, especially in the corporate world, looks down on anyone without a degree (or at least that has always been my insecurity – how many times is the first question someone asks you ‘Where did you go to school?’). This posting today reminds me to thank those who made this possible, and to take some pride in my self-directed education. Thank you!

  12. teflon : be glad you’re American. Someone without a degree could never make it that big in Europe, especially in France – library or no library.

    Things are evolving, fortunately, and college is very cheap (like 500$/year cheap). But still…

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