Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Did you see this story in the Times yesterday? Seems a couple from Denver wants to establish a specialized library on an abandoned ranch way up high in the Rockies. It would be a place for people of all walks of life to come and appreciate books. And nature. Books about nature, mainly.
On the surface, it’s an idea everyone ought to be able to get behind. We all love retreats, and a retreat dedicated to reading and the great outdoors sounds like something I’d want to run to. But there’s something a little bit indulgent about the plans of these two bookish entrepreneurs. They have something like 32,000 volumes they need to park somewhere. It would be nice if other folks could benefit from them, they reason, so why not a beautiful ranch library in the sky? They don’t own the ranch, understand, but they’re leasing it at huge discount from the City of Aurora, CO, which means that the citizens of Aurora are supporting this project whether they like it or not. What the couple envisions is a library that attracts everyone from PhDs to mountaineers to scholars of Native American culture to weekenders. Learn about bees while in this spectacular setting on top of the world!
They need a lot more money, though, to make their dream come true, and the Times piece comes off as an appeal for funding more than anything. I expect they’ll get what they need because of the romanticism of the project. People are saps for books and mountains, right? I guess what irks me about all this is the same thing that irks me about most vanity projects: they fulfill someone’s long-time dream but they’re usually patronized by people who have the scratch, and time, to zip off to Colorado for a few casual days of rustic reading. It’s for the folks who take expensive vacations.
I’d rather see the resources and immense effort of this idea go toward a project that gets books into the hands of poor kids in the inner cities. Or one that gets inner city kids out to places like the mountains and forests so they can see that there’s a lot out there to dream about. Or one that teaches young people of all stripes to play music. A little brainstorming and I bet most of us could come up with something that has a lot more of a social payoff than a bed and breakfast library in the high country.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the concept on paper. But not all dreams are worth bringing to fruition, even if they’d be deeply satisfying to the dreamers. Romantic hopes are well and good, but the expensive vacationeers have plenty of places to go already.
A library ranch in the mountains? Aim higher.