When I told a friend of mine I was going to write this article, she said to me, “Is there really anyone who’s anti-library?”
Given that libraries all over the world have been facing budget cuts for years, that seems to be the case. Of course, most of the politicians calling for cuts aren’t against the existence of libraries, they just place them lower on the list of priorities for budgeting. There are also those who argue that the internet has made libraries obsolete. Thanks to tablets and ebooks, it’s even easier to access information from anywhere. Some have argued that libraries simply have no reason to exist anymore now that information which could only be found in libraries in the past can be found by anyone with internet access.
This goes into a larger debate about ebooks vs. “dead tree” books. I don’t think ebooks will replace physical books nor is such a thing desirable. Even if ebooks can be infinitely backed up, electronic data ultimately relies on electricity. In order to preserve knowledge, physical books need to continue to exist. We can never predict when electricity will cease to be reliable. A physical book stands entirely on its own. Every book also isn’t available as an ebook, at least not yet. If someone is trying to get a hold of a rare book, say for research purposes, but don’t have the money to shell out for buying it, a library is still a necessity.
Electronic vs. physical books is a much longer discussion for another time. To bring the focus back to libraries, I believe that people who claim that libraries are obsolete because of the internet are mistaken in that they view libraries as repositories for physical books. It seems obvious to me that this just isn’t the case. Even putting aside the fact that most libraries have adapted to allow you to check out ebooks.
Libraries also serve as community centers. They provide spaces for everything from group meetings to classes to galleries for local artists, libraries provide a space for people in the community as much as it does books. This applies to the internet as well. While access to this internet is common for most people, not everyone can afford a computer and may need to use one.
For example, if someone is temporarily impoverished due to a lack of employment, it would be harder for them to apply to jobs if they didn’t have a computer or one that broke. Being able to use a computer at a library is important to someone like this.
So if you want to stand behind your local library, what can you do? Writing to your city council about the importance of the library is one possibility. Myself, I have little faith in the people who run my city. So what can you do in your own everyday life?
The first thing, of course, is to use your library services. Check out books and movies on a regular basis. If you have a group or event you want to plan, look into booking a room at the library for it. There’s no better way to keep your local library relevant than by showing that people will still use them.
Budget cuts mean that libraries rely on volunteers more than ever. If you have the time, look into applying to being a volunteer. Usually, you’ll be doing things like helping people find books, shelving books, and doing filing. However, they may also ask you to help with events and activities. If you like working with kids, many libraries have programs for children you can volunteer for.
If you can afford it, libraries are always looking for monetary donations. If your local library is facing budget cuts, any amount would help them out. My own library always has a book sale going on and yours probably does as well. Look into buying books from there. You can find some good stuff for pretty cheap and give back to the library at the same time.
Many of the readers of this site are likely also writers. If you have a published book, look into donating it to the libraries in your area. They may put them in their collection or they may sell it as part of their book sale. Either way, it helps benefit them and gets your book there.
Despite what some might say, public libraries are still a necessary part of many local communities. In order to keep them around, it’s important for people to pitch in and do what they can to keep them alive.
Autor: Ben Arzate