When people think of where they’d want to hole-up in the event of a zombie apocalypse, they usually think of shopping malls, or prisons, or castles or warehouses – or maybe even getting out of the city altogether and heading for the hills, or sailing out to sea. Few would ever think of heading for their nearest library. That, I think, is missing a trick. Most library buildings, especially the larger reference libraries which can be found in most large cities, are impressive edifices, with large, well-built doors. They also tend not to have too may windows because too much direct light can damage books. There’s lots of space in them, and if you start to get bored, there’s always plenty to read. Yes, they might not come with a ready supply of food, but a few quick foraging trips should be enough to sort that out.
However, none of these are the reason why I would consider a library as one of the best places to try to ride out a zombie apocalypse. Instead, it’s because of the wealth of information contained within their fortress-like walls. Think about it. Think of all the skills you’re going to need to survive in both the short and the long-term. You might get lucky and find that within your survival group you have a surgeon, a mechanic, an electrical engineer, a military strategist and so on, but the chances of this happening are slim. Instead, it is likely you’ll be surrounded by people who have about as much knowledge as you do about the intricate workings of an internal combustion engine or the human body or a 12 volt DC electrical system. This means that if you’re going to survive, you’re going to have to learn an awful lot very quickly, and just how are you going to do that?
Now, with the way the world currently is, the chances are if you wanted to find out any of this type of information, you’d simply turn to Google and start typing, but how long is Google going to survive once the dead start to rise? My guess is not very long. Even if it does, how are you going to access it? The phone lines will probably fail within a few hours, mobile phone reception is likely to follow soon after, and the electricity won’t be far behind. We’ve got so used to having a little device tucked into our back pocket or backpack that we can simply whip out and find the answer to any question we can think of (and a lot we can’t!), that we’ve forgotten what a privilege this is. Yet, this system is surprisingly fleeting and fragile. It requires so many links in the chain, all unseen by you, to get the information you want from where it resides and into your hand so you can read it, that makes it incredibly vulnerable to even the smallest disruption, so you can imagine what would happen in the event of a zombie apocalypse. This information delivery system would collapse sooner than you could type ‘How do you start a chainsaw?’
So what’s the alternative? Well, the answer is, of course, to find somewhere where all this information is written down in an easy to access format, and this format is the book. You need no electricity to get at the information contained in a book, no servers half way round the world, no fibre optic networks crossing entire ocean basins, no wi-fi or phone lines. You just open it up and start reading. And where would you find the books which would contain the information you’d so desperately need? In a library! If you can find just the right library, it will contain a copy of pretty much every book that’s ever been written, or at least it will contain a good proportion of them. You might not know it, but book publishers in most countries have a requirement to submit, free of charge, a copy of every book they publish to a national book repository.
In Britain, this is the hallowed halls of the British Library, and within its walls, you can find all the information you’d ever need on just about any subject you could ever want. You wan to know how to develop a vaccine for a zombie virus? The British Library will tell you how. You want to build a nuclear bomb? That information will be in there, too. You want to study military strategy so you can work out how to out-flank the zombie hordes? No problem, just go to the military history section. You want to find out how to start a chainsaw? It might take a while to find it, but I bet that information will be in there somewhere too.
Now, in the age of the internet, more and more politicians are arguing that the very concept of the bricks and mortar library is an outdated anachronism that’s had its day, and that public money is better spent on more important things (like paying politicians more money to pass laws that give more power to corporations and less to the individuals who elect them!). This is, however, short-sighted. Libraries are the beating heart of our collective knowledge built up over hundreds of years. They’re the store houses of human creativity and ingenuity. Yes, we have the internet, but we need something else in case the internet ever fails. We need a backup plan in case the web collapses. In short, we need libraries. So, remember to support your local library, no matter how small, even if it’s for no other reason that, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you might suddenly find you need it, and the knowledge it contains.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.