Monday, August 8, 2011

Libraries As Lifelines!

A world without libraries would be similar to a world without words. Too dramatic you say? A little over the top? Perhaps, but consider this, the best place preserve, exchange and enjoy the written word, is the library. Every civilization that has ever existed on this earth has had in one form or another a library. A special place designated to store the ideas, artifacts and words of the culture. In a symbolic way, it has acted as the collective "memory" bank for the society. When the libraries burned down, in many cases the civilization that built it died along with the people. It is with joy and hope to report that in recent months, many libraries across the country have been given a "new" life due to citizens demanding that their libraries stay open. Which brings even better news that the demise of libraries has been greatly exaggerated. Its time to put things into perspective in order to continue the fight to keep all libraries open and accessible to all.

libraries are the bedrock of democracy. One of America's founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, established the first "public" library in Philadelphia. Granted the use of the library was limited to those who could pay "fees" but it still paved the way for the idea that anyone who wanted to educate themselves on any topic could do so with access to a community resource of books. What can be more American than having the desire to learn, grow and make a difference in life? It's in the American gene to have the Do-It-Yourself attitude as the main ingredient to the pursuit of happiness.Libraries will always stand firm to protect the rights of all to free access to information.

The theory has been noted that librarians, libraries and books are antique ideals of a by gone era. There are plenty of holes in that theory. Those who spew this line of reasoning, either don't have a library card or haven't been to other antique places such as baseball parks, banks, or shopping malls. In a bygone eras, baseball parks were simple, outdoors fields where people sat on wood bleachers to watch the game. Bank tellers were suppose to have been phased out due to the birth of the ATM. Shopping malls were suppose to disappear when the internet provided a time saving solution called online purchasing. All of these "antique" ideas have stood the test of time, with a few modifications here and there. Sure there are still ball parks but now there are retractable domes, comfort seating, and electronic scoreboards. Bank tellers are still employed, and the ATM has made some transactions easier, there is still something to be said for face to face customer service. Lastly, malls are still around because there are times that buying online is not as convenient as having the product in hand the very same day of purchase. Libraries follow the same pattern. Long ago the only items to line the walls of the building were shelves and books. Today, computers, books, dvds, and other items fill the space to meet the needs of savvy library patrons. Their needs have changed and the library has changed to meet the challenge.

The need for libraries is growing not shrinking. When troubled economic times hit, it is the library that many people turn to use the internet, take advantage of free programming for children, or to save money on purchasing personal copies of books. Keeping this in mind, why would anyone suggest that the library is a unnecessary luxury in the city's budget? To add further insult to injury, why would political officials ask the libraries to do more with less? It is time that library advocates repeat the mantra; "Libraries are not a luxury for the community, libraries are the lifeline for the community." As a lifeline to the community, libraries deserve full budgets, which includes funding for professional staff, to meet the demanding needs of their citizens.

Frankly, imagining a world without libraries is too depressing of a possibility. It is not just a selfish desire to continue working in the field. Simply put, it is the thought of many children, adults, students and life long learners who will lose access that feeds their desire to explore their world. In other words, libraries keep a community from dying. It is the lifeline to the past, present and future. It is a worthwhile fight to keep the lifeline open.

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