Are We Losing Our Libraries?I’m a reader. A watcher of old films and new, of television shows, and documentaries, and a devourer of books. As such, libraries are my natural home.
I remember the day I got my first library card, at a tiny little library in Pine, Colorado, that was only one room–crammed from floor to ceiling with books. Even then I was enchanted; I felt I’d been given a key more magical than any I’d ever read about in books. I was right. Since then, I can’t even begin to count the hours and hours I’ve spent in libraries, the number of gigantic bags of paper treasures I have drug home to savor slowly in my own time.
A lot has changed since I was handed my first library card, however. The internet has exploded to become the single most powerful tool for sharing information the world has ever seen. Books have been digitized, along with music, movies, television shows, and just about every other traditional library service. Today, many people are wondering if libraries are simply obsolete.
Personally, I have really, really hard time using the words ‘library’ and ‘obsolete’ in the same sentence. Personally, I think that anyone who could ever suggest that there could be a time when we don’t need libraries, hasn’t spent enough time in them and really needs to sort out his/her priorities. Personally, I think that a society that can even consider closing libraries has some very, very serious problems with their thinking. Sadly, that’s just me, and apparently I’m in the minority here, because local libraries around the country are closing their doors for good because of budget cuts.
Information, knowledge, entertainment, and a good, comfortable place to read. For free. These things will never become obsolete. Also, though people tend to forget it these days, libraries provide many other services as well. Here’s some things you might not realize you can get from your local library:
- Free Internet and Computer Access. Yep, and a quiet place to work as well. Good luck getting that at Starbucks.
- Meeting rooms where you can hold study groups, reading clubs, HPA Chapter meetings, etc.
- Classes on a wide variety of topics, book clubs, and all sorts of community events. Many libraries even have book signings from awesome authors.
- Movies, television shows, music, books on tape and CD, magazines, and tons of other fantastic things. That’s right, books are fantastic and all, but for those of you who haven’t visited one in a while, libraries go WAY beyond books now.
- Old or obscure materials (books, films, etc) that are simply not available anywhere else in the world, or are so expensive to buy that you could never get your hands one them. And these people will actually let you take them home.
- Perhaps the most important thing you will find at a library is a treasure that no internet device will ever be able to reproduce: Librarians. Librarians have, like, actual degrees in library science, and they aren’t just for shelving books. They can find information in minutes that would take you years to discover yourself. And their knowledge extends far beyond books, these awesome people can usually help you with things like job hunting, applying for unemployment, where to start looking for information for your thermodynamics essay that’s due tomorrow, and just about any other topic you can think of. If you can’t find something yourself, ask a librarian!!!
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”–Neil Gaiman
Can you imagine life without libraries? Neither can I. Hermione’s heart might simply cease to beat at the mere thought. Yet that’s exactly what we’re going to get if we don’t stand up and support them more. Over time, we have come to take libraries for granted, to think of them as a fact of life, and if we aren’t careful it will be too late before we realize just how wrong we were.
So what can you do? That’s easy: go to the library! Check out books or music or just browse the shelves and discover (or rediscover) all the magic you can find there. If you don’t already have one (gasp!), get a library card. The main thing is to show your support, and make sure people in your community realize how important their local libraries are. If you want to do more, consider donating time, money, or books to your local library. If you aren’t sure where your local library is, you can find it here (if you’re in the US, if not, google will turn it up).
So next time you have a homework project due, or you’re job hunting, or looking for new music, or the perfect summer book, or you just have some time to spare, remember Hermione’s advice: If in doubt, go to the library.
Oh, but you might want to count the shadows. Just in case.