Monday, March 28, 2011

Reflections: What's Going On With Our Libraries?

I like to go through the little polls that Time Magazine has online.  Each day, they have a new question that the public can vote.  By voting, you  find out the results, but you also get to see the break down on a cool little mappy thingy of how the nation votes. It's broken down by state.  About a year or so ago, when the economy first took a tumble one of the questions asked which public service should be cut to save money.  I was so shocked to find that more than 70% of our nations poll voters (at that time of the day) chose to cut Public Libraries.   I just couldn't believe it.  Like really?  I mean libraries are so educational and so beneficial.

Well fast-forward a couple of years and here we are today and I come across another survey where a majority of the public would vote to CLOSE public libraries to save money.  Hmmm... What are people thinking?  I don't understand this.

"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

My mom introduced me to libraries when I was very young.  Each week we would go to the library and I would check out 17-20 books.  Libraries were my favorite place ever.  Can you imagine the cost my parents would have to go through to keep up that reading habit?  I can't.  But it wouldn't have happened.  In the end, I wouldn't have been the reader that I am today.

With the advent of so many other means of entertainment, there are fewer new readers.
So many people tell me how they hate to read.  None of my friends are readers (well except my two best friends) and no one understands why I read for fun when I have to read so much for school.  When I was teaching, reading was seen as a punishment and very few of my students even had a library card.  Most of those who had a library card, went to the library to get on the computer.

Is this why people think libraries are unnecessary?  Is it because there are so many non-readers out there?  wouldn't shutting down libraries lead to the inability of people to educate themselves?  What about people who cannot afford to buy books?

"I have said repeatedly that in this country we track library books better than we do sex offenders." ~ Mark Foley

I can't help but think that libraries have at least a small part in the public's disinterest.  I for one no longer use my public library (shame on me).  Libraries have changed so much.  When I was younger, it was a quiet place where you could check out books to your heart's delight.  Every book I could ever want was there.  Now, when I visit the local library there are people running around everywhere and it is so noisy that I find that I can't think. I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet places...or so I thought.

I can never find any books I want.  I've moved around a bit and found that getting a library card is a hassle.  I know, I know...I shouldn't complain about the opportunity to get my hands on free books.  But when I have to jump through hoops to get books I feel unwanted and the library seems unwelcoming.  Then they tried to put me on some probationary period where I could only check out two books at a time.  I never went back.

Now I realize that my complaints are probably exaggerated and not what most people experience at libraries but I'm not sure that libraries are welcoming to all.  I know I could never study in a public library no matter which city I'm in because they all seem to have veered away from the quiet place I had become accustomed.

So I ask... What do you think about the public's willingness to shut down libraries? What do you think libraries can do to gain more support?  I'm sure I'm behind on the times, but what is your opinion concerning the atmosphere of libraries?

I have done so much complaining that I feel bad.  I must close with the reasons why I love libraries (beside the obvious ones).

  1. I love the interlibrary loan system where you can get books that you need sent to your library for you to borrow. 
  2. I also love that many libraries allow you to check out books on your ereader.  I am getting a library card when that comes available in Austin.  
  3. I love that libraries led me to many of the opportunities in my life (including meeting President Clinton in the White House, speaking at a convention for the American Library Association, and getting in law school since I wrote my personal statement about reading)
I just wonder and ask.. What is going on with our libraries?  They already face reduced funding at every turn.  What will happen to our libraries?
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1 comment:

  1. Im surprised so many voted to close the libraries. They are important places to many. Personally I have never went much - shame, I know, but I've always been a big book purchaser/owner so I always have a big backlog. Actually my TBR is now a little over 800! Still I love my local library adn just to walk into there. They are trying to do fundraisers to build a new building, and I want to attend their yearly tea next year, it's going to be an Alice and Wonderland theme. They also did a Hunger Games dressup/reinactment at the local high school and just really shine for books with weekly puppet shows/reading for the kids. I know a friend of mine has to use the library for contact, study, and internet. Shame so many find them not useful!


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