I am sitting in the New Hanover County Library, trying to reach a proper understanding with a new email account (Google does not wish to cooperate). A few minutes ago, a group of school kids came in. They looked like they were in their early teens, dress in hoodies and caps, jeans and sneakers. A quiet group of working class to middle class kids about as interested in touring a library as you might expect teenagers to be. Some have been here before, some have not. All will most likely come again because research papers, still a rite of passage in high school, must be done and the library is still the place with the information, is still the place free to the public.
I then look out the window at the red brick building across the street, the Cape Fear Club. I wonder how many members there are like the kids in the school group. How many of them have never been to the public library before? Oh, I am sure many have donated to the library as well as the county museum, public radio, various youth programs around town. But I have to wonder how many really use the public library? And sending secretaries and clerks to the library doesn’t count.
Wealth tends to buy you out of public spaces and into enclaves divorced from the lives and experiences of masses. The sorrows and joys of everyday people seen alien to you once you are looking at those lives through the bars of a gate. I watch the men, and it is only men at the CFC, go in and out of the red brick building. They speak to people on the street, they give directions to tourists, they laugh and smile just like regular people. I am sure they think of themselves as regular people, or at the very least kind people. But kindness implies a sharing in a life similar to another’s, a life in kind.
I wonder how much in kind are the lives of the members of the CFC and the members of the school group touring the public library. One thing is clear, the kids in the school group are free to invite the members of the club to the library. I doubt the reverse is the true of the Cape Fear Club.