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.
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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