Here’s to the Library
Carroll County Times (Local Paper)
In Defense of the Public Library
Why do we need public libraries, when so much is available online? Aren’t books a dying medium? And Public Libraries are just houses of books, right?
I recently read a critique of public libraries which expressed surprise that libraries had survived as long as they have. The author seemed to be of the opinion that libraries served no purpose in the community. The services and opportunities offered by public libraries are often simplified, in popular thought, to being nothing more than a building that holds out-dated books and shushing librarians. This has never been my experience of libraries, neither as a long-time patron, nor as a librarian.
When I was growing up, my family and I were frequent visitors to the local public library. After every visit, we would come home with a tower of books so high we could barely carry them. There was something magical about a place where you could just walk in and borrow any book you wanted. A real world location for a thousand adventures, a spring board for the imagination, a portal to endless unknown worlds. The possibilities were limitless. It was a chance to explore what we had not considered, to read books we would not normally look for, without the commitment of buying the book. Public libraries offer the opportunity to read and explore to people who might not have the means or inclination to purchase books for their own collections. The cost of books may not seem high, if you just buy one at a time, but the price adds up very quickly. The library provides a chance for patrons of all ages to explore to their hearts content.
But the shelves of the library are not the only resource. For many people, libraries are the only place they can have access to computers and the internet. This is an essential resource for many people. Computer and internet access is something many people take for granted, but not everyone can afford it. Libraries house conference and study spaces, which otherwise might only be available to those in an academic environment.
Library staff are also a vital part of the community. Librarians offer assistance and advice with grant-writing, job-searching, research and more. Librarians host programs for all ages in the community. Children’s programs, in particular are opportunities for community members to explore learning outside of a school setting. Perhaps the most well recognized kind of children’s programming, are the summer reading programs offered at most public libraries. These reading programs have been shown to greatly increase children’s school readiness, as well as providing children incentive to read, in whatever genre or topic they choose. These programs are not only important to assist children academically but they help to get kids excited about learning and reading.
From story time and crafts, to choosing new material the add to the library collection, to connecting with other community organizations, the role of the library is more than just as a building full of books and information. The duty of the public library is to be more than a resource, but an integral part of the community.