On libraries and flight shame

I haven’t flown since November last year, and while I look forward to flying again soon-ish, I might want to reconsider the option. It was said that a flight across the Atlantic, say specifically New York to London, puts an extra 1.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air, and costs $60 in environmental damage. This equals to a round trip for a 15-mile car commute every day for one year, and even much sadder, we managed to put a polar bear out of its home as it destroys a chunk of polar summer sea ice cover about the size of an office cubicle. There is a word, or multiple words for this guilt in multiple languages. In English, it’s ‘flight shame’, of course. The Dutch call it vliegschaamte; the Swedish call it flygskam; and the Germans, Flugscham.

I often thought about how, if I weren’t who I am today — I am not quite sure what I am at the moment, an academic, a writer, a freelancer, a student? — that I would probably be a librarian. I haven’t had the slightest idea of what the job of a librarian entails (you definitely would need some form of formal education or training, as librarian Jon Michaud got his Master’s in Library Science), but I like it that it has to do with books (of course), curating the selection of said books, organising events relating to books and literature, and reading books in my free time (although I am not sure this is what librarians even do, or allowed to do in their free time). I am not sure I would enjoy shushing people who make noises in the library though. I definitely would not enjoy doing whole loads of paperwork. Basically, I like the idea of having the authority to decide and be involved in the concept and practice of having a whole repository of knowledge that could change the world under one building.

I think a lot about how libraries are probably one of those places where you are allowed to be in as long as you want and without the expectation to spend any money whatsoever. “It’s easy to forget just how radical an idea the public library is. It is the ultimate third place—a place that is neither work nor home, where people interact with other members of their community. It’s a place where social status is leveled, where there is no barrier to admission, and no one is stigmatised. In our divisive digital age we need such spaces more than ever,” says librarian Jon Michaud. I also think of some stories where libraries become the places where the homeless and the immigrants find refuge from the harsh weather or the hard life on the streets, and where some of them go just to read and to apply for jobs too. I love how some of these libraries recognise how these people use their spaces and begin to serve and respond to their needs better. I love stories that give hope such as this, especially in today’s current challenging political climate.

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