Leipzig libraries are places of freedom

Leipzig. I feel at home anywhere there is a library. I pack my bag, and get on the bus. I greet the staff at the gate. I breathe the scent of hundreds and thousands of books. I am walking. Libraries are our last secular havens left to us in the cities. Which we still live when it snows and rains, that is, when it’s gray with a drizzle of rain, and gardens become inhospitable places. The last places that are not completely knockable yet. The true temples of democracy. Libraries for everyone. Everyone is equal in front of bookshelves. Libraries are places of freedom because we decide which imaginary worlds we want to escape to and which harsh realities we want to face. What knowledge do we wish to acquire and what certainties do we question.

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We find books that are out of print, and we get our hands on something we never expected. Yes, how many children, how many young people in this country, who have read the world? Sometimes we find only silence between two racks, or Wifi working. We find a range of national and international magazines, newspapers and magazines. We find traces of ancestors, sometimes an insect (the book used as a fly swatter), sometimes a few underlined lines, even a forgotten letter among the book covers. The libraries cannot be praised highly enough.

The library is the universe itself

Leipzig also has some great specimens. City Library of the Book Palace on Wilhelm Lochner Platz – what gracious halls! The library of the University of Albertina, where I immediately pulled every visitor from outside, and my friends who had studied in other cities turned green with envy. Yes, it is worth going to Leipzig just to visit the Albertina or the almost inexhaustible German National Library.

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How many hours did you spend in Albertina? I wrote my novel there, read, drank a cappuccino in the cafeteria, smoked on the stairs. In the summer I sat in the open magazine, where the weather is great and you can rest when it is time for the exam again. I holed up in Slavic studies, in theology, where there are nice benches by the window. I was glad to see the old gentlemen sitting on heavy chairs and reading the newspaper. People who sleep with their heads on the tables. The library is a loving place. He does not judge, he collects.

Commitment to impartiality

Unfortunately, libraries have also become the targets of attacks time and time again lately. It is not only threatened by cutting the budget (yes, such a library costs money). Librarians reported swearing vandalism of unwanted books. Pages have been cut and ripped from books that deal critically with the far right or contain left-wing content. Although most attacks come from the right-wing spectrum, librarians have also reported that recently there have been more complaints that one should take this or that book off the shelf because it is sexist, using the N-word (a discriminatory term for blacks). ), and books. By Sarrazin, for example, or Tellkamp.

Now I’m by no means a fan of Sarrazin or Telkamp. But the demand to remove this or that book from the inventory, or even to lend a hand and commit a criminal act, goes against the mandate of public libraries: they are committed to impartiality. It must guarantee freedom of information and freedom of expression. Of course, this does not mean that libraries should also not be places of critical discussion. And not every county bookstore has to have every title from a small, policy-relevant publisher on the shelves. That’s what interlibrary loan is. Interlibrary lending in general, you can’t praise that highly enough either. Interlibrary lending is like a sophisticated train network, made of paper only and transporting us everywhere, really everywhere.

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For a person: Ronia Osman, born in Munich in 1993, came to Leipzig at the age of twenty to study at the Institute of Literature. In 2015, she received the MDR Prize in Literature for a story about a Syrian immigrant family, very similar to her own. At LVZ she regularly writes about the heterogeneity of big cities like Leipzig, for example on the topics of integration and migration.

By Ronia Osman

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