Alexandria’s Great Library was among the wonders of the ancient world. For three centuries it preserved the knowledge and literature of the Greek, Egyptian and other Western and Near Eastern cultures, holding an estimated 400,000 works on papyrus scrolls.

The Great Library was a center of learning, with lecture halls, meeting rooms and gardens in which people of many cultures collaborated to search for truth, knowledge and meaning.

We on the Coastside have a new Library, which opened on Saturday. It, too, is a wonder. Here are my comments on the new centerpiece of the San Mateo County Coast, and a few others’ remarks about libraries.

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”

— Jorge Luis Borges 

Our new library was controversial. “Why build a library when we have an internet?” Put another way, “Why go to a party when I have food and music at home?” Internet surfing is largely a solo endeavor. A library is a shared experience, and an inclusive one for those who can’t afford or use electronic media. 

Like the Library of Alexandria, our library brings people together. It has a large hall for community events, small meeting rooms, play areas, gardens and even a “maker” room where people can create 3-D objects, use sewing machines and control robotic devices. There are quiet places, too, for those who need a respite or a place where they can concentrate.

“I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.”

— Groucho Marx

 There is something intimate about reading a printed book. It is a tactile experience. You feel each page as the book’s weight slowly shifts from your right hand to your left. When you return a library book you’re making it available for someone else to read. It’s a generous act.

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Some say our library is out-sized for a small town. Yes, it is large, airy, comfy and bright (mostly through natural lighting, and it produces all the energy it uses). If you prefer libraries that are cramped and dimly lit, don’t visit ours.

Our coastal community’s new public monument is a library. That makes an important and positive statement about who we are. We value the written word — still our species’ most revolutionary invention. We celebrate knowledge and creativity, we seek wisdom, and we enjoy shared diversions that enrich our lives. thanks all who made our new library possible.

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