Friday, July 22, 2016

"Without reading, you don't have access to freedom"

     There were actually some very positive things going on at the Republican National Convention, so long as you kept your attention away from what was happening inside Quicken Loans Arena.           

     CLEVELAND—Even in a Public Square jammed with colorful advocates of every cause, both marginal and mainstream, Jonathan Harris stood out. 
     "I'm spreading the love of reading," said the branch manager of the Aurora Memorial Public Library in Portage County, whose jerry-rigged bookmobile—a milk crate filled with paperbacks strapped to the back of his bike—was simple yet effective.
     No sooner had Harris paused before the Terminal Tower when M'Ryah Holmes, 11, and her sister Rameerah, 10, were upon him, eagerly looking through his selection, being given away to anyone who would take them.
     Why do they like to read?
Mavis Holmes with daughters M'Ryah, (left) and Rameerah.
     "They don't have no choice," said their mother, Mavis Holmes, with a steely inflection that suggested much get-your-butt-in-that-chair-and-read guidance on her part.
    Why is reading important?
     "The reason it's very important is for them to understand their civil rights," said Holmes, an assistant instructor at a high school. "To get an education and understand the process. You can't have access to freedom without being literate. Without reading, you don't have access to freedom."
     An hour later I ran into Harris in the park next to Public Square, when he stopped his bike for Muireall Brown, 19, of Florida.
     "Do you have anything?" she asked.
     "What do you like to read?" asked Harris. His white baseball cap declared "Make America Read Again" and Babar the elephant peeked out from the tattoo on his right bicep. Harris has been working in libraries since he was 16—his father Mike was also a librarian. 
     "I like a lot of historical-fiction," Brown said.
     This is kind of a busman's holiday for him—taking off work as a librarian to peddle a bike around, working as a librarian. Why?
     "It gives me a chance to talk about reading, about libraries, about funding.
     Brown didn't find a book she liked. But a fellow medic—she was at the convention with Rust Belt Medics, tending to cases of sunburn and dehydration among the protesters—did find a book to his liking.
    "The Time Machine by H.G. Wells," said Taylor Morris, 26, of Atlanta. "I almost took the prequel to Dune that Frank Herbert's son wrote. But I didn't want to take too many books."


  1. Emptying my house of the hundreds of books, gave Goodwill about 30 hardbacks but no one wants my paperbacks...such a shame. May have to recycle them.

    1. Most Chicago branch libraries have "Friends of ..." groups that hold book sales to raise money. Call your local library and ask if they have an advocacy group that would be interested.

    2. Most Chicago branch libraries have "Friends of ..." groups that hold book sales to raise money. Call your local library and ask if they have an advocacy group that would be interested.

    3. My dad always got his medical care at the VA hospital in Hines and always complained about the crap library they had. I've donated my books (mostly popular fiction and non-fiction, mysteries, etc. - the kind of books many people would enjoy) to either Hines or the VA hospital downtown. They were always very grateful.

  2. Some suburban libraries will take paperbacks and they sell them for low prices in their books for sale section.

  3. Neil, you manage to track down the most interesting characters. Amazing librarian with a fantastic tattoo. And a momma with a distinctly unfashionable do-it-because-I-say-so stance, who seems to have made it work with her 2 darling daughters.


    1. Great insight during tremendous turmoil.

    2. Great insight during tremendous turmoil.


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