Why Libraries Are Important
It may come off as odd that my first post after a long hiatus is about libraries, but I warned y'all that I was boring. I am literally lamenting over the concept of the library right now and how few people I personally know who actually use one.
I took a class two semesters ago entitled "Perspectives on Literacy." The class focused, in large part, on theory, practices, and the importance of literacy overall. We read a lot of articles from many different viewpoints. Although many of the new ideas and perspectives I was introduced to managed to stick with me, there was some data from one article in particular that still comes to my mind a lot. Like right now. As I lament. This article was entitled "How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities," by the Pew Research Center. You can read that article here if you are interested!
Before I got started reading it, I placed my own self in the context of the title. I asked, "How do I value the library in my community?" For myself, the ability to select any book of my choice and read it for free is perhaps one of the best things about libraries. I love looking at Goodreads and Amazon reviews to find out the latest good book to read. For the past three titles on my list, I have been able to find them within a month after the release date on the "NEW" shelf. The more frequently I stop by, the more likely I am to snag the books on my list. There is also the option to request the book with the online catalog, and as soon as it becomes available, it is delivered to my local library for me to pick up. A classmate once said to me, "why don't you just download them—that's what I do." I hate reading on screens—I only use my iPad for reading when I absolutely must. Having access to the library allows me to continually express my appreciation for the smell and feel of books in my hand as I turn the pages. I also appreciate the quiet atmosphere of the library. Almost every single one I have been in adheres to the "shhhh…quiet, it's the library" rule.
Thinking back to when I first moved to this town two summers ago, there were two things I made sure to do within my first week here. I located the closest playground and the nearest library. This should answer my question—I highly value the library in my community. "Should they be important to everyone else, too?" became my new question.
To that, I say yes, and I'm sure someone is shaking their head right now or just scoffed. In general, I believe libraries are important places for a number of reasons. They provide individuals without internet or computers access to the technology, even if it may be a bit dated, as shown by the 34% of Americans who believe that libraries don't do a good job keeping up with new technologies. Despite the age of the equipment, the access to usable internet and computers provides the general public with the tools to conduct job searches or apply for disability and unemployment benefits if they are unable to do so in their own home. Those previously at a disadvantage, due to the price tag of home internet and the conversion of many of these applications to digital, are placed on a more level playing field. Some libraries even offer assistance looking for jobs or accessing state aid, or at the very minimum, a list of links to start. I truly believe this goes hand in hand with Pew's result that "95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed."
Aside from computer access, the library can be a nice place to meet people. Our local library holds many organized activities throughout the year, ranging from regular weekly children's groups, to book clubs, movie nights, ice-cream parties, and arts and crafts. I've met a few moms in the children's room while our kids were playing together, too. Nice conversation is always welcome. If you're looking to expand your book collection, as I always am, our library sells used books for .50 which is pretty cheap. They also offer free or greatly discounted tickets to local museums, the aquariums, and the zoos. I recently tapped into this resource while planning a trip for my family to the New England Aquarium. Adult tickets are $26.95 each and children's tickets for ages 3-11 are $17.95. With the pass I got from the library (for free), I am able to purchase up to four tickets at the discounted price of $10 per ticket! I like that price much better!
Why not try the library? It's FREE! That's it, y'all. Zero dollars. I don't know anyone who turns down free (especially parents looking for something to do in an air-conditioned facility with their child[
If I still haven't managed to convince you that libraries are cool, at the very least, consider going online to your local library's website and checking out the services that it offers. You may be surprised at some of the things you could have been doing all along. Reading is FUN-damental, after all!