No need to read between the lines on this one

Work in Progress By Ivan Morgan


Seriously, congratulations.

If you are reading this, then you are a reader. That’s terrific. Reading is, to me, one of the most important things you can do.

I was delighted last week to read in this paper that Conception Bay South has just opened a brand-new library. This is an investment in the future. This is money well spent. Make no mistake.

I have always been a big reader. I was encouraged to read from an early age. My father always had a few books on the go. My Mother too. When he died, Father left behind a personal library of over 3,000 books.  Long ago, when MUN’s Queen Elizabeth II Library opened, he was quick to get a library card. At the time it boasted two and a half million volumes. He was in his glory. He would go on Sunday mornings and wander the stacks, pulling any book on any subject that caught his interest. When he had a half dozen, he would check them out and that was his reading for the week.

I have the same habit, but online. I have an e-reader. I also buy a lot of books online. I love getting books in the mail. Ironically, I don’t often use public libraries, but I am a fierce believer in them.

A library is not just about books. It is about promoting reading, encouraging curiosity and creativeness. For small children it’s about instilling habits that will bring a lifetime of rewards.

I don’t think there is anything sadder than people who don’t read. I have been in people’s homes – lovely folks – and have realized there wasn’t a book in the house. It’s a free country where people can live as they like, but I think they are missing out.

Libraries are key infrastructure. They are as important as water and sewer. They are a beacon to the future and a window on the past. They enable people to broaden their horizons.

You would think that any educated forward-thinking government would invest in libraries. Think again.

Years ago, I was part of a team that fought the Liberal government’s plan to shut down provincial libraries as a cost cutting measure. We won. They backed off. Then they went about doing what governments do: starving those same libraries for a decade, not raising their grants while the price of books has (like everything else) soared. It’s an old government trick: let something crumble for lack of funds, then close it.  

There’s a word for this attitude: shameful.

One of the more shocking things I witnessed when I worked in the House of Assembly was how many MHAs don’t read.  Part of being elected is reading legislation, briefing notes, reports, and the like, so you can make informed decisions on behalf of us all.

Time and again I served on committees where officials had written up the issues and the options and given all members a copy. Committees were always composed of the three parties, with government (obviously) having the most people sitting, the majority vote.

It was often obvious government MHAs had read nothing. I have many memories of government MHAs (in both parties) looking at their phones until they were asked for a vote. They then voted the way they were told. I swear to you some of them, were they stopped by a reporter, would not have been able to give more than a one-line answer on how they voted.

I honestly believe most of the problems this province faces are due to the lack of a reading public. This paper serves that public. I am not denigrating other media, which serve their purpose, but I believe the print media is essential to a healthy, functioning democracy. So do the folks who toil every week to ensure this paper is in your hands every Friday, showing you your community and the issues of importance (and even saving a pond from time to time).

I believe reading is essential to democracy. And so, it would appear, do the good people on the CBS town council and the folks who work for them. Make no wonder CBS is one of the few growing communities in a seemingly dying province.

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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