It’s a real honor to stand at this podium I fashioned out of our last two copies of Homer and an old card catalog to tell you about exciting things happening at the library. Now, as we all know, during a budget surplus, which seems to come along about as often as Emily Dickinson went out to the discotheque, we’re the last to get the crumbs and when it’s a budget apocalypse, we’re the first to take on cuts. And this year is no different. You have likely heard of the city’s plan to cut more library funding, but here we’re keeping our heads high, our resolve strong and I, for one, am excited about what’s in store for our resident bibliophiles.

“A book is like a garden carried in your pocket,” according to an old Chinese proverb. But, as the Mayor is so fond of saying, “Weird, oriental ooga-booga doesn’t scare me.” Here at the library, we’re trying to find some middle ground, as most of the books have been “repurposed” to provide heat, while murmurs of a Reichstag Fire Decree persist around our unslaked water cooler. 

The good news is, look at all this room! I sound like Maria Callas up here—who knew the lobby was such a sonic wonderland? What’s that, Julie? OK, yes, the eardrum rending night-howls of the street crazies should have tipped us off. Everybody meet Julie. She’s our new unpaid intern from NYU, here to… run crying out the door. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, STOP MASTURBATING IN THE LIBRARY, JERRY! I just don’t understand the appeal! No, of doing it in the library, man.

Moving on, we hope you’ll enjoy browsing through the ashen particulates that once made up our children’s section. You’ll finally be free from the pesky paper cuts that induce so many of you greedy hobos to lawsuits; free from pages that moved the Earth, the bittersweet aroma of history, of truth and beauty. And while you’re enjoying that, we ask you to please refrain from bunching up while waiting for the Kindle—a magnanimous gift from some hipster who forgot his or her backpack.

OK, listen up sexually confused onanists and that family cowering in the corner: I know the library isn’t the coolest place to be—it never was. Although, yes, I agree, it may be the coldest place to be. You know the rule—heat goes before Homer. No, the other Homer. I don’t think he had a last name.

Anyway, I’m sure that even if you were some ancient dork in the stacks at the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, there was a bottle of ripple lying around or rocks, or a tiger eating a corpse or something more “fun” to do than read. But how do we evolve as a species, as carbon-based inhabitants of this fecund orb, without reading and interpreting our past in a place where they have actual pages to turn, where the whoosh of energy exchanges between woodpulps, the escape velocity of knowledge pushes forward on a fragile flap of skin from a fallen pine, a felled hemlock?  And can we at least get a space heater in the stacks so Ms. Palermo doesn’t sit in the corner pretending she didn’t just set fire to A Separate Peace! MS. PALERMO! It’s a bildungsroman, not a god-damned marshmallow!

I know it’s cold in here. We can’t afford heat, much less Dante’s Inferno, but for the love of Polyhymnia, muse of sacred poetry, pensive vixen of pantomime, playgirl of Pushkin and BEING COLD IS NOT A VALID EXCUSE FOR MASTURBATING IN THE LIBRARY, JERRY! DON’T SHUSH ME IN MY OWN HOUSE!

People, I demand we fight! The answer lies in books, in education… in raw material! Am I right? The very core of who we are. And they’re taking that away. Melvil Dewey, god bless him, is rolling in his grave. Hey, that’s the idea! That’s right, Jerry! Smash that Kindle, throw it in the fire! Ha! The irony stings to the bone, doesn’t it, you leeches, you government charlatans! This is what literature is all abou…

And now the electricity is off? Tremendous.

OK, remain calm. The lithium-ion batteries from the Kindle should burn for a while, and we can keep warm until help arrives. Don’t blame me, people! What do you mean, “what are we going to do?” Gather around and listen:

“Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achille…”

And that’s the last of the kindling. All right, pyros… is it going to be the Odyssey or the Iliad?