Why libraries are important

img_0362I saw a disturbing trend on Twitter on the weekend, people were talking…”talking” about how Amazon should replace libraries. The good news is that most of the talk about this, or at least it was on my feed, was saying a big old HELL NO to this idea. That gave me hope.

This whole thing was apparently started by a piece in Forbes magazine: Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money (which they have since taken down). The good news is that when I googled the situation, this was the first article that popped up: Forbes suggested Amazon should replace libraries, and people aren’t having it.

Whew. But I still feel like I need to have my say in this. Because…well, what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t yammer on about things that I feel passionate about.

Some of my earliest memories that make me warm and fuzzy are about the library. The excitement of going in as a child and having basically endless possibilities of reading materials (I actually still get the same feeling now). My mom used to take me to the  story telling time at the local branch. All of these things instilled a life-long love of books and reading.

One of the first things I did when I made the move from Toronto to Toledo was get a library card. It was partly to get access to the reading material: magazines and books. But a large part of that for me was that it was an anchor and a way for me to start building roots in a new and unfamiliar place. It represents a sense of community and belonging to a group of people who love books and reading as much as I do.

I spend a lot of time alone during the day. And it gets lonely. One of the places I have frequented is the library. People are friendly. It’s mostly quiet. There are comfy chairs to read and tables with outlets to plug in your computer to do whatever work or research you need to do (or just plain old goofing around on the internet). But I was with people. I didn’t need to talk to anyone or make friends. I didn’t want to have to buy a $4 fancy coffee. I just wanted to sit and be in the world. How many other people find solace in the library when they have no where else to go?

I get that puts the “burden” on taxpayers. Why should I pay for someone to have a nice place to go and goof around on the internet? Here is why. Especially today where the world feels fractured and is so impersonal, we need to have spaces for people to go and gather and feel like they are part of a community. Where children can go and hear stories read to them and feel the joy of picking out a book and learn about caring for books and responsibility. Where people are there to help you find what you need – that book with the blue cover, or whatever you are seeking. The library is about more than books. It always was and it always will be.

I think that libraries have done a great job in keeping up with the times and technology and the needs of their users and give people a reason to use their services. How many businesses can say that? I can read magazines on my iPad or computer, I can watch movies, and I can even stream music now. Oh right, and that’s besides the books I can rent for free. This is because libraries understand that they are part of the community and bringing people together.

I am happy that there was a rally around libraries – all over Twitter there were stories from people who have sought help from their local library, how one actually had a stuffed animal sleepover and sent out pictures (cute!) and generally how the library is important to a lot of people. It gives me hope that the world isn’t as sucky a place as it sometimes seems.

Here is what I suggest: if you don’t have a library card go and get one. It’s super easy, and you don’t even have to go outside. Many libraries have online cards so you can check out electronic media. And if you are feeling adventurous, go to your local branch. It will make you happy. I promise.



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