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A Ferocious Rebuttal To “Why I Never Go To The Public Library”

Note from Josh: This guest post made me smile even more than Roman’s. Whether you agree with Roman or Ami, I still want everyone to read Libraries Matter.

Guest Post By Ami Kim

This week Roman wrote a diatribe about how horrible libraries are because they are run by the government. Reading his post made me feel as though I had been slapped (virtually) in the face with a frilly white glove. Yes, Roman, I think you are a frilly white (virtual) glove slapper because, well, because REAL MEN appreciate libraries. Real women, too. Why?

Libraries let you take stuff for free

Books, yes. But also CDs and DVDs. Prizes for kids who read. Free wi-fi AND use of the computer to access it. (Does your local bookstore lend people computers?). The libraries in my area even lend e-books and digital audio books, for anyone who prefers their literature digitized. (Not quite sure how they do that, but it is very cool). And libraries provide free space. You need a safe place to just hang out and read – without having to buy something? Go to the library. They’ll give you some space. They give away resources to anyone who has a library card, regardless of how many other types of cards (or cash) they might have in their wallets. Libraries are a great equalizer.

Libraries are green

How many times do you buy a book (or a CD or a DVD) from the bookstore, and it’s a decent enough book, but not something you plan to read again. So it gathers dust in your house. Try it out for free at the library. You love it and want it for your very own? Great, go buy it. Not so much? Just send it back for someone else to try. No hard feelings. Hate a book you read at the bookstore? Try returning it and see what happens.

Librarians teach us how to be smarter

Bookstore associates find your book and hand it to you. They might help you figure out what author you’re thinking of, what section of the bookstore might provide what you need. But bookstore associates won’t send you elsewhere to find something you need. If the bookstore doesn’t have what you need, too bad.

On the other hand, librarians help you find what you need at their library OR they’ll help you get it from another library, which will deliver the book to YOUR library via an interlibrary loan agreement. Even better, librarians will teach you how to do research to find what you need on your own. I started learning how to research as a kid, with help from my local librarian, and the whole world opened up to me. I felt like I could learn ANYTHING because I knew how to find it.

Libraries build community

One thing I find in local public libraries that I don’t see in bookstores – meeting rooms. Need a place for your book group? Call the library. Want to discuss which books you think should be banned? Call the library. Local libraries hold story time and puppet shows for kids, invite musicians and historians to speak and teach seniors how to use the computer, all for free. If something is going on in the neighborhood with a local ordinance or zoning board, you can discuss it at the library – and have the relevant code sections nearby for reference. You can get to know your neighbors at the library.

Libraries are feisty

Who steps up to the plate when books are banned? Not bookstores. So long as another money maker is coming down the pike from the likes of Stephen King or Jodi Picoult, bookstores will continue their business as usual. On the other hand libraries have always taken an interest in banned books and even showcase books that have been banned.

Libraries develop a love of reading

Both libraries and bookstores have children’s sections. But libraries allow, even encourage, children to touch, open, handle and read books that they have not bought. Every book is available, librarian favorites are displayed with pride, and kids can pull books to read as they please. Kid-sized tables and chairs encourage lingering with the selection. Some libraries sponsor events like ‘Read to Rover’ where therapy dogs will ‘listen’ to children read their books, thereby encouraging the kids to practice their reading skills.

I love libraries. I love the books, the DVDs, and the online resources. I love the librarians and the bookish atmosphere. So what if the chairs and books at the library a bit worn and well-used. So was the Velveteen Rabbit.

Yes, Roman, libraries may need to evolve to remain relevant. But for today, they’re pretty great.

How about you? Are you a library lover – or hater?

About the author:

Ami is a former Serious Person who writes about finding her calling at 40 Days to Change.

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  • chip September 24, 2010, 12:03 pm

    wow, the original post was funny, but this one kicks ass! As an intentional vagabond I find libraries are a great place to chill out without having to buy anything, and if you want coffee with your wifi, there’s always McDonalds.

  • Boris September 24, 2010, 12:22 pm

    That Sailor Moon art is great!

  • Jacque September 24, 2010, 12:24 pm

    Well put Ami! When my children were small we went to the library at least once a week and I believe this is one of the things that helped foster the love of reading and books that they all enjoy now as adults. Most families cannot afford to expose their children to the amount and variety of books available at the library, it is an economical way to keep up with their rapidly changing interests and growing knowledge.

  • mumsyjr September 24, 2010, 1:22 pm

    I come down on Ami’s side on this one. Partly because when I read Roman’s I was struck by the argument about just buying the latest book you want…because I realized I haven’t bought a new book in close to a year, I happen to be in the midst of financial crisis. If it weren’t for the library, my kid would have almost no new reading material either, and we wouldn’t have had anywhere (I could afford) to go hang out during the hottest hour of the day (because the A/C broke and I can’t fix it).
    But mostly, because I love libraries. 🙂

  • soultravelers3 September 24, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Amen sister!!

    I thought I loved libraries before I had a kid, ( and I am passionate about book stores too so I have passed on these afflictions/passions to my child who is as thrilled to find a book store or library as she is finding a chocolate shop as we travel the world).

    BUT once I had a kid who turned out to be a voracious reader like her mother, THEN i REALLY realized just how important libraries are.

    We have been on an open ended , non-stop, world tour as a family for the last 5 years ( 4 continents, 32 countries so far) and not only do we love libraries where we go, but bringing our library card as we roam the world has been amazing as we tap into it all the time.

    Yea libraries! I just used one in Paris across from the Louvre for my travel office! 😉

  • Becky Blanton September 24, 2010, 2:39 pm

    I live in a rural area where most people cannot afford the internet. Our local library is ALWAYS packed! There is a waiting line of parents, kids, teens, adults and seniors waiting to get in every day. Some use the internet and wifi, parents and kids love the books and videos. Seniors read the papers and magazines and even help the teens with projects. It’s a great place! There are photography contests, the people who help with tax issues come out, and it’s become the local gathering place for us all.

    When I was homeless the library was where I went to get out of the heat of living in my van, and to search for jobs, to read, to feel a part of the community. Thanks to a library and internet access I was able to secure the jobs and resources that got me off the street and into a home. Libraries are shelter, community and resources for those who use them. Without them people from all walks of life would suffer on many levels. I’m with Ami – yay libraries!!!

  • Vanessa September 24, 2010, 11:37 pm

    Anyone who grew up in America and hates the library likey hates elements of their childhood. This type of personality likely has great disdain of government and authority in general. Hating the library is a great way to project resentment due to a neglectful and/or abusive, oppressive adult figure (parent) in childhood. Thes types of personalities will also likely have a superior sense of self and have difficulty bonding with dominate personalities.

    I’m so full of crap and caffeine right now! Oh my God I’m laughing so hard!

    I love the library for one reason: free solitude. As a kid growing up in a manic city in a wild family, the only place I could hide was the library. Thank you God. I could hide. I could escape, and no one would question me there. You don’t have to be a member to enter. You don’t have to explain anything or talk to anyone. You can read anything. And now you don’t even have to use the miniature pencils and card catalog to find titles.
    Sure you might run into someone who smells odd or has imaginary friends, but if I smelled bad and had constant chatter in my head, I’d take advantage of the library too.

    I had my first kiss hiding between book shelves there. Bless the library and all Librarians.

  • ami September 25, 2010, 6:11 am

    These comments give me goosebumps. I suspect the emotion and the comfort that Lindsey describes in her Libraries Matter post are common. But maybe we’re biased, given that we’ve all chosen to read a blog by the World’s Strongest *Librarian*

  • Roman September 25, 2010, 12:52 pm

    Hello Ami,

    The high I felt when I saw that my post stirred enough passion to merit a counter-post, was exactly equal to the low I felt from being called a non-real-man.

    I am real man. And I do have a library card. I take it out alot, not to borrow a book, but to reminded me how the goverment builds free things that cost me money.

    My library card was free – free in that I did not have to pay for the card, to enter the library, or to borrow books. But not free because the the government is using my tax dollars to build the library and lend out books.

    I am being forced to pay for a child daycare with rock hard chairs and outdated books. I do not go there, but I am charged for it.

    I am certain that if goverment subsidised libraries were closed down so that privatly owned libraries could open up the we would all be better off. I would not be paying for a service I do not use, and the people who do use it would pay a small fee and have a much better library. Just like the DVD rental business. BlockBuster video is privately owned– can you image a goverment owned‚‘free‘ video store; thats another place I would never go.

    Why Real Men would never go to GovBuster Video. I am working in the post now.

  • Becky Blanton September 25, 2010, 1:02 pm

    Roman, Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy and is closing at least 1,000 locations. They are dying – kicked in the ass by Netflix, Hulu and companies who put customers and technology ahead of profits. That said, I was amused by your logic that you’re paying for something you don’t use. How do you know your tax dollars didn’t go to fund the search and rescue or ambulance crews that will scrape your brains off the asphalt if you’re ever in a wreck? Or maybe they went to pay for services you DO use, but that your taxes alone couldn’t possibly pay for. Your personal tax contribution would pay for about 4 square yards of asphalt – enough to patch a pothole on one of the tax-funded roads you drive every day. You’re really contributing about .00000001% of the money it takes to fund the services you use or benefit from every day. So this is really a tempest in a teacup – much ado about nothing – and kind of selfish and shortsighted really. But if it yanks your chain – go for it. It certainly generates comments!!

    • Roman September 26, 2010, 1:35 am

      Hello Becky,

      Good point about Blockbusters. Since they are no longer able to serve their customers they go out of business. That is how the market works – that is the fate of all non-government business. Serve the customer or die.

      Unfortunetly, government owned libraries are not under the same pressure. They do not need to serve their customers. Libraries are protected from the market by tax payer’s dollars. Libraries will continue going for as long as the library’s administration can convince the goverment to keep sending them money.

      You say, “I was amused by your logic that you’re paying for something you don’t use. How do you know your tax dollars didn’t go to fund the search and rescue or ambulance crews…“ True, I do not know that my tax dollars went to the library. But, finding out that a government official stole millions of dollars from the coffers, would you be comforted by “how do you know that it was your tax dollars that were stolen”.

      I have no problem paying taxes for public goods that can only be handled by the goverment (military?, education?). But, like video stores, shoe stores, phone companies, post offices, oil companies – libraries would be a lot better if they were driven by profit to serve their customers better.

      • Becky Blanton September 26, 2010, 2:34 am

        Waste, corruption, and greed abound in government. Of all the things my tax dollars go for – and war is one of them, the libraries are the most beneficial. You don’t spend much time in them obviously, or you would appreciate them. To privatize them would mean most people could not afford them – and the result would be a poorer, dumber, and more enslaved society. It’s bad enough as it is. To remove the one community this country has left where anyone can participate will kill us faster than Obama and the New World Order already are.

        Capitalism works as you say – as long as the government is truly a democratic republic. In such an economic environment I agree – privatizing libraries would work. But America is no longer a democratic republic. It is a corporate oligarchy. The ruling class is the government and the government is made up of a few select capitalists who have outgrown the intent and design of capitalism and are hard at work moving us toward global totalitarianism. Perhaps you’ve heard both George Bush’s AND Bill Clinton AND Barrack Obama refer to this as “The New World Order.” In Germany during the 40’s the term for “New Order” was “Nazi” as that is what Nazi means – “New Order.” We are marching towards the same fate as Germany under Hitler, so there is no hope for libraries ever becoming privatized. Remember? First he nationalized the banks, then the car manufacturers….no, not Obama – Hitler! The VW bug was born from an order from Hitler and designed to be “the people’s car” – what is coming with the now government owned car manufacturers soon. He also nationalized the schools and the libraries. But before I hijack the thread and go off on another rant – suffice it to say that we need libraries, whether you use them or not.

        • Roman September 26, 2010, 3:53 am

          The impact of the “new world order” on my local library, or why the Nazi’s librarians gave out matches as bookmarks are interesting discussion topics. But unfortunatly they are beyond my understanding. All I can be certain of is that I enjoy the local Chapters a lot more then my public library. And that is why I never go to the public library.

      • Barbara Gordon February 18, 2011, 2:08 am

        I love my library and I constantly try to “sell” us to folks who don’t quite get the fact that we have multitudes of services available – not just books. Your post was excellent and I’ll be pointing some peeps to this site. You Betcha! 😉

  • ami September 25, 2010, 7:51 pm

    Roman: First off, I must apologize for insinuating you were not a real man. I have no evidence of your being a non-real man (and if you were not real, would it even be possible to prove it? ok, the fake metaphysicist in me is confusing the heck out of the former lawyer in me). My passions got ahead of me – and I will happily return your (non-frilly, virtual) white glove.

    But really. Really? You shouldn’t have to pay for stuff you don’t use? ergo, you should only pay for stuff you use? So – if your house catches on fire, the fire department pulls up with a credit card reader? Or the emergency workers pull up to the field (paid for by whom?) where you play soccer and ask for a check to set your broken toe? Should police officers wait until they can do a credit check before arresting the intruder in your house? (Of course I WOULD love a government where only people who had use for and could pay for war had to pay for it. THAT I would support wholeheartedly)

    I’m sure you are a gainfully employed individual. But what if something happened to make bookstores unaffordable for you? Should books (and DVDs and internet access and CDs and newspapers and magazines) only be available to people with cash to purchase them? I hope you never experience such tough times. But if you do, your library will welcome you. 🙂

  • Jeanette Swalberg September 26, 2010, 2:05 am

    Things I have checked out from the library aside from books, dvds, videos, books on tape, etc.:Framed impressionist prints which were placed on easels as decorations for my wedding reception.

    Something I would like to check out from the library soon: a State Park pass.

    My son doesn’t like our local library. He doesn’t like “old-looking” buildings. He likes the library near our old neighborhood, which is about five years old.

    Just sayin’.

  • Dermanus September 26, 2010, 7:14 pm

    I’m a little late to the game here, but I was ordering a book Josh recommended from the library and came across this on the Toronto Public Library website:
    Service Update

    St. James Town branch is opening Sunday, September 26 12:00 – 5:00 pm and Monday, September 27 10:00 am – 8:30 pm in response to the fire at 200 Wellesley Street so area residents can relax, read and use the computers.

    One more for libraries.