September 14 2008
This doesn’t even LOOK like Minnesota…
I used to buy a lot of books, which I’d almost always read just once and then put on my shelf. Having a full bookcase makes me feel smart, even if most of them say “Star Wars” on the spine. However, when I went broke, I realized how much of a waste it was to buy books, and eventually remembered that I could always go to the local library for most of the books I want, like I did when I was a kid.
My local library system (the Ramsey County Public Library) has a pretty good selection (including comics, to my surprise) but their collection of atheist and religion-critical books is unfortunately limited to the big names (Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, etc.) and they don’t have any of the interesting-sounding books I’ve heard about on Point of Inquiry. (Seems like I add a new book to my “To Read” list every time I listen to a new episode.) For a while, I thought I’d have to buy the books if I wanted to read them (or even download them on the internet) but then I decided to think bigger. There’s a bigger library!
So today, I wandered out into the rain, drove into downtown St. Paul, and eventually stumbled, dripping, into the Central Library for the first time, about 20 minutes before they closed. An employee set up my Ramsey County library card to work with their system (awesome, I don’t have to carry around another card in my wallet) and I immediately came to the Non-Fiction section, where I picked up 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison, and Irreligion by John Allen Paulos. I was looking for something by Robert M. Price, but I didn’t find any in the limited time I had.
The Central Library is amazing. It’s one of those huge, old stone buildings with thick walls and dark wooden shelves. There are pillars and arches, and elaborately decorated ceilings. It feels like the kind of library you only see in movies, and except for the computers and barcodes and handicap accessibility, it doesn’t look like it has changed at all since it was opened, in 1917. I only got to see a small part of it because I got there as they were closing, but next time I’ll be sure to give myself lots of time to gawk.
The history of the library is also pretty interesting, and includes some pretty familiar names in Minnesota history – people who now have counties named after them. It was surprising and sad to hear that the previous St. Paul Public Library burned to the ground, taking 158,000 books with it.
Anyway, I’ll definitely be spending more time at that library in the future. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to check it out.