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Why Libraries Matter, and What Would Be Lost

One thing writing my book has taught me is that I love libraries much more than I even thought I did. As I count down to publication day while continuing to work at the library, I’ve decided just to make April “Why libraries matter to me” month.  I’ll still be talking about books, of course, but there will be more library stuff than usual.

Onward, then.

Author Terry Deary–whose books I love!–recently came out in opposition to public libraries.  An unusual stance for an author, but it has made for some great discussion. You can read some of his remarks, as well as some other authors’ responses, here.

Many of the points he makes simply can’t be taken seriously, so I’m not going to try, especially since many, many others have already taken the argument apart at great length. 

When Deary compares people who borrow books to”looters,” I can only laugh.

But his comments have reinforced to me again that libraries, while full of books, are so much more than buildings full of books.

I recently watched several classes of grade school children taking a tour of the library.  They spent most of the hour exclaiming about the building, the huge glass windows, and the fact that they could take any book, CD, or DVD they could find, for free. And when I saw many of them in line at the circulation desk with stacks of things they wanted to read, watch, and listen to.

My library system puts on over 2000 programs a year.  It houses over 1,000,000 items. It is a public space used for so many different kinds of activities that if I started listing them, you’d probably put this post into the “too long, didn’t read” category.

I asked in an interview recently to talk about why libraries matter.  Yesterday I talked about libraries and dignity.

But honestly, the best way to make a case for libraries is simply to go to a thriving library, watch for a while, and list everything that would be lost without it. It’s a far better answer than I could ever give in words.  There’s simply no other place like a library.

I was one of those kids once, touring a building but learning that I always wanted a library in my life.  At heart, I’m still one of those kids. Every time I walk into this place, the words of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Invitation” would make a great voiceover:

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!


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  • Daisy April 4, 2013, 11:38 am

    This is all so true. For years, our local library was the source for my son’s audio books. Audio books are expensive, so buying them wasn’t an option. Our library had a wonderful selection for young adults.
    And if I happened to see something I found interesting, well, I just checked out a few goodies for my own reading pleasure.