Friday, August 7, 2009
Why We Need Libraries
If someone were to ask you why we needed libraries, what would you say?
Would the answer come easily to you?
You might say, they provide free computer access. You might say, they have books and DVDs I can check out for free.
But here is some food for thought:
Libraries safeguard our freedom and keep democracy healthy.
Libraries are ready when they are needed, ready to enrich our minds and defend our right to know, just as other institutions protect our safety and property.
Libraries break down boundaries.
Libraries provide free family programs and lead outreach programs that teach citizenship and develop multilingual and multicultural materials for their patrons. Libraries service the homebound elderly, institutionalized individuals, the homeless and the blind and hearing-impaired.
Libraries level the playing field.
By making all its resources equally available to all members of its communities, regardless of income, class, or other factors, the library levels the playing field. Once users have access to the library's materials, they have the opportunity to level the playing field outside the library by learning to read, gaining employment, or starting a business. In this current tough economy, libraries are seeing firsthand how this is playing out. Community members are using us more than ever for help finding work or to check out books or other materials they can no longer afford to purchase.
Libraries return high dividends.
What do Gallo wines, the I Can't Believe It's Yogurt chain and billboard-sign giant Metromedia have in common? Libraries made millionaires out of each of these companies' grateful owners by providing crucial start-up information when they were no more than wannabe business titans.
Libraries make families friendlier.
The American family's best friend, the library, offers services guaranteed to hone coping skills. Homework help, parenting materials, after-school activities, summer reading programs, outreach -- like the families they service, libraries everywhere are adapting to meet new challenges.
Libraries offer sanctuary.
Like synagogues, churches, mosques and other sacred spaces, libraries can create a physical reaction, a feeling of peace, respect, humility, and honor that throws the mind wide open. But why? Perhaps it is because in the library we are answerable to no one; along with our private thoughts, fantasies, and hopes, we are free to nourish what is most precious to us with the silent companionship of others we do not know.
Libraries build communities.
Community building means libraries link people with information. Librarians have become experts at helping others navigate the Internet. Before there was talk of cyberspace, there were libraries, paving the way for the superhighway.
These are just seven of many reasons why we need libraries which I have taken in part from a 2000 revision of an article that appeared in American Libraries in December 1995 - "12 Ways Libraries are Good for the Country." (And yes, I have permission)
If you would like to read the entire article Click Here
What about you? Why do you think we need libraries? How has the library impacted your life?