My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A librarian unleashes knowledge onto lower animals at a local zoo, causing an growth of literary culture in the animal population as well as a contempt for the things of man. This book is a scathing look at the library industry as a whole, how it began and how it will fall.
We begin our tale as Molly the Librarian “mistakenly” drives her bookmobile into the zoo. Despite the wording that this was no plan on Molly’s part, she decides to set up shop and entice the inhabitants of the zoo with literary works none the less. I doubt Molly’s motives in this are pure, as she is the prototypical temptress that leads the world into disarray. Compare this to the rise of the public library and the idea of “free information” in society.
Molly eggs on the aberrant behavior of the animals by pushing her book delights on the local population, causing them to break free from their cages and seek her out. Rather than call local authorities such as the suspiciously absent zoo keepers, Molly gives books freely to the animals with promises of more if they return. Our librarian teaches the creatures how to care and maintain their new found knowledge, just as the library taught the public. She even goes so far as to adjust her product to fit the needs of individual creatures, such as waterproofing for otters, without regard for the materials themselves. Just as Molly caters to the public’s wants and needs, so does the library cater to the public, creating spaces and places for them and not for the knowledge.
A tipping point comes when the need for output overcomes the need for input, causing Molly to be irrelevant. The animals themselves become the creators, authoring and critiquing tomes of various literature, putting aside their need for literature and by extension Molly. Sure, she may be there, helping them, but it is the animals themselves that are generating content now. As the rise of the Internet foreshadowed the fall of the public library as “knowledge centers,” so does Molly’s position in zoo society.
In the end we find Molly not at the center of the tale, but on the outside looking into the world that was created by her actions. The animals rule the information, are its gatekeepers, and Molly must trust that they can do so for themselves. While this tale ends on an optimistic note, one cannot help but wonder what the future may bring. Will future zoo inhabitants, our children, be as capable as those who first struggled to break free? As Molly, the librarian, recedes into the the distance as an antiquated relic, will future generations keep her love of information, imagination and knowledge sacred? Or will the animal society forget the past and devolve into a culture of commenters and collectors who do not learn from their mistakes but delete them with a keystroke?
Each day in the month of April 2012 (starting the first Sunday, then excluding every other Sunday) we will blog using the alphabet as our guide. I will link each post to the letter and you can find them all on this page. If you want to keep up with the challenge for my fellow bloggers, check out the A to Z Challenge Page.