Fahrenheit 451, a Novel Come to Life in 2019

It’s official books are now a thing of the past. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I hear that our youth are now “well employed” to cannibalize and burn books, while our local school libraries are not selectively removing books from the libraries, they’re removing the majority of books from the shelves right along with the shelves themselves.

A few years back I went to my alma mater, Kent State University, looking for a particular book and noticed many of the book shelves had been removed from the stacks and replaced with tables and chairs for students to study, with their laptops. I also noted the absence of magazines, newspapers and eventually the entire area where back issues of newspapers could be accessed disappeared, as well. I found out many of the books had been moved to an offsite storage facility and now had to be requested online. At the beginning of last year I was in the library scanning some pages out of a book and found myself in the midst of a full blown party, with pizza and a DJ.

Apparently, I had stumbled into “A Night At the Library,” a kind of introduction for new students to the Kent State Library. This was quite a shock, seeing as how it was the first weekend of the school year. I had expected a nice quite scanning session at the library, not a hip hop festival, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t know what went on above the first floor where I was, but that whole floor had already been transformed, with the addition of a Starbucks, removal of the card catalog and the installation of rows and rows of computer terminals, that now fill nearly the entire floor, except for “The One Stop,” the 21st Century registrar.

So, changes in the library have been going on for some time now, with the addition of maker spaces, where students can access 3D printers, photo enlargement equipment, audio and video recording equipment, etc. This article is not about change, it’s about the current purging of books from school libraries and classrooms, altogether. This is something that I never thought I would live to see happening, but it’s happening right under our noses with nary a peep out of the public, as if everyone is in agreement with these new policies.

The Book Purge of 2019 is happening as we speak yet librarians in general seem unaware or just don’t care. It’s hard to say which, because I have yet to find a librarian that is aware of the overall situation. The ones I have talked to are knowledgeable about their little corner of the universe, but totally unaware that a full on bibliocide is occurring, as we speak.

As an homeschooling parent and bibliophile libraries have been an indispensable part of my life. We did not have the resources to purchase all the books we used to check out from our local library. When we went to the library every 2 weeks we usually had so many books on hold that they had to bring them out on a separate cart, just for us. We’re talking about literally checking out grocery bags full of books every week. Without free public libraries we would have been hard pressed to provide a quality education for our children.

From what I’m hearing the purged books are being sent to other countries in Africa and possibly elsewhere. Our loss is their gain. I hope they use them wisely. Meanwhile, even more disturbing than all of the above was the news that not only are books being purged and sent overseas, but that there are local companies who are in the business of cannibalizing books and burning them. Yes, you heard that right, burning them, not recycling them or anything environmentally friendly like that, but actually creating more toxic smoke for us to breathe.

Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953 about life in the year 1999, when books are banned and firemen are paid to burn books, exclusively, since all books are banned. It’s a dystopian idea, whose time has come. Since the dawning of the computer age pundits have been foretelling of a new paperless society, but most of us never dreamed it would come in a fiery blaze. The remake of the movie came out in 2018, starring Michael B. Jordan as a fireman named Montag. Needless to say it’s quite timely, seeing as how we’re now in the midst of another era of book burning, 21st century style, under a wanna be autocrat, we call Forty-five.

At the time he wrote the book Bradbury was concerned about the possibility of book burning in the United States, during the McCarthy Era. Years later he also “described the book as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature.” Here we are now in the midst of a social media age in which 140 characters constitutes a meaningful exchange of ideas and anything longer than that is clearly not worth reading. Might as well burn it!

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