February 19, 2018

Save the Library

I’ve lived in several different areas of the US in my life, and this is particularly evident when I check in with friends using Facebook. Recently, some people I went to high school with shared a lovely news article concerning the county I grew up in. See, the (thankfully ex) chairman decided to fund a massive sports stadium that the city couldn’t afford and to make up for the deficit, the county plans to cut funding to the library system, closing as many as eight branches.

This isn’t the first time my hometown has done something particularly cringe-worthy. They also decided not to fund public transportation to deter the spread of ‘undesirables’ and placed stickers in biology textbooks reminding students that ‘Evolution is a theory, not a fact.’ But I digress, I wanted to focus on the library thing.

In contrast, my current local library branch recently underwent renovations, reopening this past week. Although the building has the same size and footprint, clearly a lot of thought went into how the community utilized the facility and the best way to meet people’s needs. There is now a teen area, more classrooms and quiet study zones, and tons of seating, both for curling up to read a book and creating a temporary workspace.

I’m fortunate that I come from a family of readers and book lovers. Growing up, the local library served primarily as a collection of books. My mom would bring her sturdy tote bag, give my brother and I a limit, and we’d peruse the shelves until we had loads of books to check out and bring home. We got exactly one week to pore over our finds before we had to round them up, return them, and pick new ones.

My childhood memories of the library definitely meshes with the definition—a collection of books. The term has grown to include not just physical volumes, but any curated information. Once I was in college, the university library subscribed to tons of electronic journals along with housing digital copies of a number of lectures. But on top of bursting with information, the library was also fundamentally quiet, making it an excellent place to study. That was the first time I experienced people intentionally hanging out at the library.

Where I live now, these public institutions are used by the community for so much more than the knowledge they hold. Every time I visit, there are tons of people there, working, meeting with each other, using the computers, participating in a class, or simply enjoying the solitude. In fact, there are times I’ve gone with my laptop in tow, ready to work on one of my novels, only to find that there’s no table space available.

In the past 20 years, the internet has changed how people get information, and I’m glad that the community I live in has adapted and embraced that change. The library’s mission is lifelong education, and as someone who loves learning new things, I fully embrace this ideology. And as a writer, I love having a place where I can do research, sit down to write, and take the kids on a rainy afternoon.

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