Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Open Letter To The Hennepin County Library

To Whom It May Concern:

I know I owe the Hennepin County Library System $2.90 for forgetting to return L’Avventura on time last month, and I will pay it just as soon as I am in the library with three bucks in my pocket. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to use my cash card for purchases less than ten. Anyway, I’ve been doing business with the Minneapolis System since I came to town almost thirty years ago, and they know I’m good for it.

There’s something you can do for me, and come to think of it, I think it’s a good idea for you.

There’s a book I’m returning today (on time), Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. I haven’t finished it. It’s a good book, but kind of slow reading, being sort of a textbook. Somebody has a hold on it, so I can’t renew it. I had a hold on it, too. It’s one of five in your/our collection, and I requested it in the late spring. I’m going to request it again, when I return it later this afternoon. But don’t you think you/we should own more copies of a book this popular?

Let me tell you why I think Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual is always in circulation. Permaculture is a neologism -- being a librarian I’m sure you have an interest in examples of language’s evolution, and here's a fresh one -- a hybrid, of “permanent” and “culture,” particularly “agriculture.” The idea is that human enterprise should mimic and integrate with the natural local ecosystem. Since this is most easily done in growing food, fiber, and fuel, the book is (mostly) about designing farms and gardens with ecological sensitivity. An idea which is growing, but not widely articulated these days, is that, despite various proximate causes, much violence and many economic crises could be avoided, were we to live more harmoniously with the non-human world, mimic and integrate with its ecosystem. This is a plan for doing just that.

There are dozens or scores of Hennepin County permaculturists. They are the reason that Minneapolis now allows beekeeping. There is a vigorous membership organization, called “Permaculture Research Institute: Cold Climate.” A group called “Midwest Permaculture” holds week-long seminars for which twenty people at a time travel hundreds of miles and pay twelve hundred bucks a pop. You can best see that there is a market for a manual like this in your circulation records, though. If you were renting books to library patrons, the five copies of Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual would be subsidizing a lot of more widely-popular stuff. I have read Frank Miller’s Sin City comic book series courtesy of the Hosmer Branch, pretty sensational stuff, but I often notice them languishing on the shelves.

Post-Peak Oil, recessions will be more frequent and deeper, while recoveries will take longer and seem less like recovery, until we find true wealth by taking our place in the web of life, or until closing time. The Library can help us make the right choice by making more copies of Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual available.

No comments: