The Art of Unpacking a Library by Alberto Manguel
This article has been published in The Paris Review. It begins:
I would argue that public libraries, holding both virtual and material texts, are an essential instrument to counter loneliness. I would defend their place as society’s memory and experience. I would say that without public libraries, and without a conscious understanding of their role, a society of the written word is doomed to oblivion. I realize how petty, how egotistical it seems, this longing to own the books I borrow. I believe that theft is reprehensible, and yet countless times I’ve had to dredge up all the moral stamina I could find not to pocket a desired volume. Polonius echoed my thoughts precisely when he told his son, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” My own library carried this reminder clearly posted.