the essay arriving too late to be entered in the contest: Libraries and the Decline of Civilization.

I don't know how one would define civilization, but I would guess that it includes relationships, pairings, groupings or collections of people. Hell, Charlton Heston needed Nova before he could ride off down the beach to curse the maniacs who blew up the Earth. You can't start a civilization with just a shirtless guy named Chuck on the back of a horse. At least not one we can show on TV.

And these relationships need some permanence. They can't keep forming and dissolving every ten minutes. Relationships need to endure long enough for shelters to rise and children to grow.

So what does this have to do with libraries? Don't libraries preserve culture? Aren't they centers for communities to gather and leave horrible messes in the toilets?

Traditionally, yes. But recently, libraries have begun contributing to civilization's decline, collapse and total failure.

What is the length of a good relationship? I know teen girls claim they are "bff"s with just about any other girl wearing a "Team Jacob" charm bracelet around her wrist, but how long is that relationship going to last? Best Friends Forever only means "until I change my mind and hate you forever."

So let's say a proper relationship lasts 3 months. And a good relationship lasts several years. Where does that leave libraries?

Libraries used to loan books for a month. You checked out a book and got a card stamped with a date at least 30 days in the future. And for those 30 days, that book was yours to read and reread to your heart's content. You formed a relationship with that book.

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