MPL Central Location
Op Ed Assignment
In recent years, we have seen an increased pressure on public libraries to measure their worth. Whether this is in foot traffic, engagement, or circulation records, libraries across the country are feeling the pressure to produce positive statistics in order to insure their funding. With the increasing cost of providing resources like databases and e-readers due to copyright and user agreements, libraries have greater resource expectations from their communities, and are often crunching numbers to meet them. Our libraries provide a great service to our community, and deserve to have stability and confidence in the funds they receive each year, especially if they go above and beyond the call of duty; like the new Madison Public Library’s Central branch location.
A public library’s duty is to provide a place to pursue literacy and education as well as promote community engagement. Community encompasses all members, from the wealthy to the marginalized. The Central location has made a real effort towards inclusion; creating a space that is both hi-tech and comfortable. Providing self check out for people wanting to get in and out, and comfortable seating, enclosed study space, and private computer space for those wishing to stay longer. This library has a general welcoming air. What an asset to our community.
This library has also gone beyond providing resources for the community in general, and has set a precedent for reaching those in marginalized groups. They should be commended for their efforts to collaborate with groups focused on providing resources to members of our community that often go unseen; namely the growing number of homeless or housing insecure members. In the absence of a warming shelter, they have provided a place for people to go to get out of the elements. They brought in agencies in the community who work with these groups to design a space that would be comforting and welcoming as well as functional and anonymous.
Madison Public Library’s worth is not just measured in the number of books on the shelves, journal subscriptions or public computers. It is measured in the number of community members who get their needs met through their services.
One of Madison’s greatest needs is a warming shelter for its homeless and hosing insecure populations. This need has been obvious for many years, but solutions are tied up in our bureaucracy. If we will not provide adequate funding for a warming shelter, then we must increase funding for organizations, like the Central Library, that step up as leaders in meeting these needs.