When I was little, going to the library was an event. We would tread into those halls with the same reverence and respect reserved for consecrated land. It was one of the only places where time seemed to stand still as you went from one shelf to another, picking up books and trying to absorb the different worlds of so many minds. It was also one of the only places where noise wasn’t allowed.

Bookshops, too, provided my young mind with a lot of respite, the smell of the books alone full of promise.

I would sit on whatever bare surface I found in the shops, reading bits of whatever took my fancy, while my dad would browse and speak to the owners about one thing or another. People would trip over my quiet figure, and I would barely realise they were there.

I felt at home when I got to university and realised how many bookshops were nearby. It was wonderful to pick things up off shelves, dip in and out of them, and then finally carry my precious cargo back home. I felt like the world was full of possibility.

Sadly, during my lengthy time at university, the great decline had already begun. As the years passed, more and more of those little oases shut their doors, and the spaces left behind became glorified supermarkets hollowed of all their meaning.

I had always thought that it was ironic that I had read Marx’s Manifesto in the same place that now carried fat, fluffy soft toys and cheap perfume, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how I felt on learning that one of my former happy places was going to be turned into an 11-storey hotel.

Education, knowledge, learning, and beauty keep falling further and further down the country’s shopping list while money and greed keep getting top billing- Anna Marie Galea

I mean, I honestly don’t even know where to start with this because the mind boggles. I have no idea why everyone has decided that any old area will do when it comes to building a hotel. There’s no sea, no sand, no view of anything except the university and the traffic surrounding it at every hour of the day.

The roads around the university have never been particularly nice or scenic, and in winter, when there are students inevitably rushing to their lectures, everything is jammed.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like if you add the residents of an 11-storey hotel to the mix: the existing infrastructure literally cannot take it.

Both aesthetically and logistically, it makes zero sense to demolish the existing three floors to add more than triple the amount, but I suppose, as usual, it’s always money that talks loudest on these islands.

Even further cruel irony can be found in the fact that the University of Malta has just suffered yet another budget cut.

A chain of small and big events all leading to the realisation that education, knowledge, learning, and beauty keep falling further and further down the country’s shopping list while money and greed keep getting top billing.

I know many people think we are losing our identity, but a mecca of learning being replaced by a monument to senseless greed is perhaps the most Maltese thing I’ve seen in some time.

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