Recently, our local library was rocked with a scandal that shook America to its very core, as they say in melodramatic news programs. It almost closed down.

It’s funny, but when I think about the times I spent there, I don’t think about the hours I exhausted browsing its dusty shelves for “Sweet Valley High” books (I was obsessed with the Wakefield twins back then), or the hundreds of study sessions spent in the children’s section cramming for the APs or even the illicit romances that went down tucked behind closed doors (admittedly, some of them fictional).

I think about how I got into a car accident there (my first hit-and-run, if you want to know the truth), how I turned into a parking spot, overshot it and basically grinded into the car standing adjacent to me, leaving the incriminating stain of red on white, like the few drops of blood that trickled down when Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on the spinning wheel and fell into a deep, deep slumber. I remember running into the library in pursuit of the friend I was supposed to pick up for ice cream, finding her in the midst of being asked to prom via an elaborate staging of multicolored origami frogs, dragging both asker and askee into my illicit vehicle and hightailing it the hell out of there. I didn’t drive back to the library on my own for a long, long time.

I’ve always associated the building, its ugly worn brownstone with the faded letters TROY stamped on its exterior, with freedom. The library was the first place I drove to when I got my license at the ripe old age of 17. I didn’t even walk inside the building when I got there, just cruised around the parking lot and breathed in my newfound freedom. From this story, some would say that I led a pretty repressed, suburban lifestyle — and maybe I did — but here’s the thing: My entire childhood is enclosed inside its walls.

On the day before its tentative close date, I walked like a spectre through every passage, every stairway, ignoring the long line of sweaty people settling last minute fines and book returns, just remembering.

Here is the table where the guy I was tutoring in physics inexplicably tried to hold my hand in the middle of a practice problem on kinematics. Here is the bench where I ate chocolate fudge Kroger cake while studying for Science Olympiad with two of my favorite people in the world. Here is the place in the parking lot where the old guy who said he was a Frank Sinatra impersonator gave me his e-mail address and asked to keep in touch. And I noticed a few other people, mostly teenagers, doing the same thing, strange smiles gracing their faces as their hands grazed a shelf, a stool, a surface.

I’m not going to go on and on about the value of print media in an ever-digitized, ADD-addled age, and the necessity for brick-and-mortar strongholds to house our souls or whatever, because I don’t have anything new to contribute on the topic. But I will say this much: Shouldn’t every city have a library, a receptacle to store the imprints of a community? Not just because of its large repository of books and DVDs, its capacity to educate the public in the most unassuming way possible — but because of its social substance.

As a kid, you think of the library as this giant fairyland, a place where colossal pictures of Harry, Ron and Hermione smile down on you like benevolent saints encouraging you to read. When you grow up, you realize it’s so much more.

The library, more so than any other place, is where you can find the personality of the city, the collective consciousness of a community buzzing with activity and civic pride. John Cusack said in “High Fidelity” that the kinds of music people like, the kinds of movies people watch — even though people say it’s not a big deal in the long run, these things matter. Well, the cases matter, too. The mediums all that stuff comes in matter. They matter because they’re our most public manifestations of something that is very, very private. When you’re standing in line, checking out your various books and movies, there’s a certain solidarity experienced as you secretly take a peek at the others’ wares. Libraries intimate a kind of collective sharing. When you lose that, it’s not something you can easily get back.

The library’s day of elections was the first day I had ever voted in my life. “How do I do this?” the woman next to me whispered from the makeshift cubicle. “I have no idea,” I mouthed back. But this was something I had to do, something I owed, both to my past self and my future.

I stayed up all night waiting for the results. The millage to save the library passed, 12,246 votes to 8,799. The first thing I did the next morning was drive to the library. This time, I didn’t get into an accident.

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