Libraries: Twilight Zones Threatened

Location: Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Objective: To catch ’em all

Problem: The 100+ degree summer weather.

Summer day. 4 P.M. After spending most of the afternoon hunting for Pokémon at Ontario Mills, my friends and I were ready to take on the Pokéstop-riddled Victoria Gardens. However, we underestimated how hot the weather really was, which baked us more than burned us whenever we stood outside.

To avoid death by dehydration, we decided to delay our trek through Victoria Gardens until a later time by taking a detour at the Rancho Cucamonga Library.

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There were AC, books, and chairs — what else could a tired Pokémon trainer ask for?

We arrived at the library at around 4 PM and the library closed at 5 PM, so we only had about an hour to recharge.

Visiting the Rancho Cucamonga Library was certainly a more different experience than I expected.

Ever since I was a little girl, the only library I regularly visited was the Baldwin Park Public Library. Compared to Rancho’s library, BP’s library is relatively small. Rancho certainly has a larger selection of books and movies. Rancho also has areas sectioned off for different purposes: a child reading center, a teen space, a quiet reading space. BP also has sectioned-off areas, but less decidedly demarcated, which allows for a more open atmosphere. On the other hand, BP has more work and reading spaces for visitors.

However, I must say the main difference between the two libraries was the familiarity (or lack of it).

Simply put, I did not feel like I belonged in the Rancho Cucamonga Library. Being in the library felt like a mix between cheating on the BP library and trespassing on the sanctuary of the Rancho library.

Because I had spent a large amount of time at the BP library since I was five years old, I established a sense of belonging. I felt none of this comfort at the Rancho library. I had stepped into a twilight zone.

The shelves were organized differently. None of the librarians or volunteers had familiar faces. Even the old and new book smell was different.

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As anyone at a library would do, I grabbed a book and decided to look for a place to read. It was a Friday afternoon; students seemingly occupied every sit-able furniture piece of the library. Luckily, I found the Quiet Reading Room tucked into the back of the library and found a couch for myself on which to read. Faced with a surprisingly beautiful view and ear-numbing silence, I set myself to read.

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I only became aware of these discomforts when I became aware of the unnatural silence that is inherent to all libraries. Yet, this silence gave me too much room to think, to consider. I paid more attention to my silently loud thoughts than to my reading.

 In this seemingly suspension above reality, I realized the personal relationship established between a community and its library. While I was having some sort of internal crisis, others around me were completely in their own zones, typing out papers and reading their assigned readings. They were at home and I certainly felt like an intruder.

The growing usage of electronic readers and the existence of the internet are slowly turning libraries obsolete. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 68% of adults in America own smart phones while 45% own tablets (as of 2015). While not all books can be found online, one would be surprised by the accessibility of the number of PDF files of best-sellers online. When books and educational resources can be so easily accessed from the comforts of home, public libraries are threatened.

The potential loss of libraries in our society have more implications than just a loss of a public, air-conditioned, resting stop for tired Pokémon trainers. Libraries provide resources equally to the public and have ingrained themselves in existing communities. Libraries have even become the second home to some individuals.

Sitting in my discomfort at the Rancho Cucamonga library, I recognized the coexisting comfort that the others around me had found. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if my twilight zone — their place of comfort — is lost one day.

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