Libraries, and Librarians, are the Best.

So, I figure it’s not the biggest surprise that a person who writes a bunch of words for his/her/their paycheck loves books. I know. And you’re right, I have bought many a book, squandered a few coins on that paperback Vonnegut, filled the shelf with words instead of bread, moved heavy boxes of books from zip code to zip code.

But once upon a time, when I was the ripe old age of eight, my love for books took me into the the work-a-day world. And it was because I had maxed out my $20 library fines ($2 per book, 10 books allowed) and couldn’t check out more books even though I returned them (albeit a little bit late).

I was kind of a mess. Twenty dollars? What was gonna happen to me? Was I gonna get thrown in the local jail? I knew the librarian—very kind and wonderful—was also the partner of the high school shop teacher. Friendly faces in the community. And still I worried: what was gonna happen to me?

The solution ended up being a simple one. I worked it off—carried so many pounds of ham and bacon in my family’s business it was all washed away. Made sausage. Made hamburger balls and stamped the packages. Packaged meat like you wouldn’t believe it. My grandparents, who owned the place, paid me $20 over a number of weeks so I could pay back my library fine. Eventually I handed over the $20 and was able to check out more books.

This was all very important to me because the library was how I kept my reading stack steady and available. It was a marvel and a refuge.

One time I checked out Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus. And then I checked it out again. And then a few more times. Such a wonderful little book. And I learned about the Holocaust from it after I read some Anne Frank.

Whitney Kimball Coe, she’s one of our people over here at Keep It Rural, her town in East Tennessee is in the mess of book-banning these days. I recommend you check out what she has to say on this front. And let’s lift up the librarians, who keep us honest and right. Maus is a wonderful bit of visual literature, not a thing that should be relegated to the forgotten days. I don’t know. I find it striking every time some group of people tries to ban books, burn books, disallow people from reading something. It’s such a strange concept.

Rural Reading List

I was gonna talk about the complicated nature of rural energy politics today. I didn’t, because of the book banning proposals, but you can read about it in these clips:

Some Rural Areas May Face Hurdles Ordering and Receiving Free At-Home Tests

I have ordered my “free” at-home Covid tests. Have you? It might not be that easy for some of us, unfortunately.

West Virginia Seeks Covid Shot Waiver for Rural Hospital Workers

This story shines a light on the continuing mess of Covid-19 exposure, worker contact and hard-hit labor shortages due to pandemic blow-ups in rural areas.

Payson May Thrive as Other Rural Areas Decline for Lack of Water

A story from rural Arizona, where the water flow is declining.

One More Thing: More Protection for the Boundary Waters

In a big decision, the Biden Administration has taken some important steps to protect big chunks of the land and waters in Northeast Minnesota’s Arrowhead. After years of controversy, the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department have revoked potential copper and hard-rock mining leases that could have created serious pollution issues in the rural region.

“Some places are simply too special to mine, and it is our obligation to ensure these unique and valuable lands and waters remain intact for generations to come,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said in a statement. And she’s right. It’s a wonderful place, and worthy of protection.

Over 250,000 people recently commented in a federally led process to set aside over 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest from proposed mining. Public input was overwhelmingly in favor of the area’s long-term conservation. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) is America’s most-visited wilderness area and supports a regional rural economy that thrives because of outdoor recreation through our public lands.

“Today’s announcement by the Biden administration is the right decision for the Boundary Waters and for the outdoor community that has worked so hard to protect it for future generations,” said Lukas Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. “Spending time outdoors is what rejuvenates and energizes us. The importance of preserving places like the Boundary Waters that provide that experience is immeasurable. We appreciate these steps taken by federal land management agencies that lay out the correct process by which we can protect our priceless public lands and waters. Now we must build on this momentum and achieve permanent protection for the BWCA.” I hope to see more public lands victories like this in years to come, all across rural America.

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