The opening of San Diego’s new Central Library was both tiresome and uplifting. On one hand there was a hectic schedule, heavy traffic, and insufficient maps. But that was a negligible price in exchange for the utter pride it brought to an entire city. History was made as people poured out to celebrate an institution that not only seemed forgotten, but the electronic world would like to assume moribund.
My assignments consisted of overseeing floral displays, a shift at the Friend of the Library, and manning the authors’ tent. Still, I took every little chance to enjoy the opening ceremony, check out the folks dressed up in historical costumes, and watch a city go by. There were singers, dancers, and parades that circled the monumental building. Being stationed at my post was the best chance for people-watching. There were those who came to give, some who aimed to shop, and even a few who seemed to have come only to take! But regardless of who they were or what had brought them there on such a sunny California day, an undeniable sense of pride spread throughout the East Village.
I had been to the old library many times and its lonely isles used to fill me with doubt about future. So it was only natural to be overjoyed at the sight of an enthusiastic crowd. In particular, I drew pleasure from the excitement among children, going from one activity to another while holding their cute library passports. They asked for pages to be stamped, be it at the Dr. Seuss library, a story telling, or face painting. By the end of the day, these future readers seemed to still have energy but had to go home because their parents were worn out.
As the day neared its end, I circled the building one more time. People had left their usual trails of waste, amplifiers turned silent, and no one stood on any of the four stages. Trashcans were filled and the remains of a few popped balloons lay on the pavement. A mother pushed a stroller filled with all kinds of objects while the father carried a sleepy child on his shoulders. The guards who directed traffic out of the garage made sure they crossed the street safely. How did he manage to keep his smile after such a long day of work?
As dusk started to set in, I packed everything into a library cart, and before entering the parking lot, I stopped for a last glimpse at my new library. The day had come to an end, but I was conscious of the rebirth of a dying institution and knew the magnitude of this historical beginning. People had gone, but the towering dome stood there, ready to receive the future with open arms.