“It’s hard for me to even remember the last time I was in a library.
[I]t’s impossible to see a world where we keep libraries open simply to pretend they still serve a purpose for which they no longer serve.”—
Maybe you enjoyed your exercise in wordplay and making points already made. But what was your point again? Books make libraries so without books libraries aren’t libraries? Books look different so libraries can’t be libraries? Libraries look different so libraries can’t be libraries? You don’t need libraries for books so we don’t need libraries? I’m sorry, what?
Oh but wait, we’re pretending? Pretending what? Pretending there’s an access divide? Pretending there’s a digital divide? Pretending information illiteracy? Pretending folks lack job skills? Pretending college students need help with citation (BAHA HAHAHAHAHHA)? Did I get a Masters in Pretending? I MEAN I DO HAVE A GREAT IMAGINATION SO I PROBS GOT STRAIGHT A’S. OR P’S FOR PRETENDING. I’m sorry, what?
On Sunday, October 14th, yet another “End of Libraries” piece appeared. Per usual, it was written by a white male with no use for libraries, because every single time this trope appears, that’s part of the author’s demographic background. Beyond that, it’s a crucial part of the author’s background. It is overwhelmingly affluent white men who argue that because they do not use something, it has no value for anyone. Libraries. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Affordable health care. It’s the same argument.
"The internet has replaced the importance of libraries as a repository for knowledge." Ah, yes, because you can trust everything you read on the internet.
Republicans play this game all the time. “I don’t need it, therefore it’s not important and we should get rid of it.” I can vividly remember the last time I was in a library. It was three weeks ago. I needed to do research and the material I needed was not online. Not every book is completely indexed in Google Books. And yes, an ebook is cheaper and faster than buying a physical copy of a book - but it’s harder to skim through an ebook quickly, and the physical copy at the library costs you nothing (up front; tax dollars etc etc).
Like I said, I was at the library three weeks ago. It was around 4 pm on a Tuesday. And you know what? It was CROWDED. There was a packed sign-up sheet for the computers. Kids and parents abounded in the children’s section. Older people and teenagers read at the tables in the main area. I had to wait in line to check out my book.
Before that, I had spent a lot of quality time on my library’s website. I like to read both physical books and ebooks. My library does Kindle loans. OK, their website is a crappy government website, and it can be a little difficult to navigate, but it’s doable. I read books I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t pay full price for, AKA a big part of the purpose of a library.
Libraries are not useless in the digital age, and even more importantly, they aren’t all empty. Just because YOU, PERSONALLY do not need or use something doesn’t make it a charming but impractical relic of a long-forgotten age.
I work in a library. Here are some of the reasons people come to the library:
They want directions.
They want to collect food/garden/dog waste bags, all handed out free at libraries.
They want to print/photocopy/scan.
They want to access the internet, either on our computers or on their own, via the free wi-fi.
Often this is because they have to apply for benefits, housing or jobs through the official system which is only available online. If they haven’t internet at home, the library offers free internet access. Where else does that? Sometimes they aren’t computer literate, so they appreciate an environment where they can ask for help.
Maybe they’ll attend one of our free IT classes, ranging from the absolute basics to subjects such as Facebook, Office software, job hunting and how to use the Council’s Homesearch website. If they want something specific, such as how to use their own laptop or how to shop online, we can set up a one-to-one appointment, also for free.
Our study spaces are very popular. Often they are all taken by ten past nine, after we open at nine. The number of people who have asked me how much it costs and looked surprised when I explained that using the library space is free and doesn’t require you to be a member surprises me.
They want to read the newspapers or magazines the library buys (recently expanded with the launch of an emagazine service—I get to read SFX for free now, which is cool).
They’re researching their family tree and want to take advantage of the library’s subscription to Ancestry.
They want to consult the planning documents for a local development or the register of local voters.
They want to participate in a council consultation.
They may have come to seek advice from an agency that operates a drop-in session at the library, such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or the police.
They may be attending an event, either run by the library (an author talk, a book group, baby Rhymetime) or by an outside company who have rented the meeting rooms (theatre productions, ESOL classes, yoga). The library itself has regular events for babies, children, teenagers, adults, adults with mental health difficulties, adults learning English…
We have regular class visits from the local schools. We read them a story and they all choose a book. Sometimes we go to them. It was actually really lovely to see how many children came into the library, talking excitedly about the Summer Reading Challenge we came and told them in Assembly.
Children still look for books when they’re doing their homework, you know. Children who weren’t born at the time of the Millennium and have grown up with the internet.
People actually still read books. Over thirty thousand items were issued in my library last month, and while we certainly have DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs, Talking Books, Language Courses, all those added together can’t be more than a couple of thousand.
Free books. I’m sorry, I am never over how wondrous that is. Thousands of books, free to borrow and read. (And for those incapable of making the journey to the library, we have a Housebound service.)
For all these reasons, we are really busy. Dozens of people join every day. Hundreds of people walk through the doors every day. Of course, there are people who don’t make use of libraries, who don’t need them. But really, someone who can’t remember the last time they went to the library can have no idea of the role they play.
Libraries are not irrelevant. Libraries are not cultural artifacts. Libraries are living and changing, a resource and a social space, free at the point of access, engaging the community, offering a wide range of services, accessible to all. And what other institution can you say that about? Libraries are important.
People go to the library for books. People go to the library for e-books. People go to the library for technology. People go to the library for human contact. People go to the library for educational and free programming for their children. People go to the library for fun. So learn your shit before opening your mouth. Maybe a librarian can point you in the way of the basics. (via inautumn-inkashmir)
Libraries for me mean a free climate controlled space, knitting patterns, and recipes. Also mine rents out DVDs and has a good sized selection of graphic novels, which really helps us keep our entertainment budget manageable. I only wish I lived within walking distance of mine, the library may be free but the bus sure isn’t.
Yeeeep. Libraries are still needed. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of mine. I utilize it weekly. Last time I was there was Friday. I’d go there more often if the librarians weren’t horrible people. As it is, I do use the hold service on books I want and they travel from the one in Roseburg to my local one and I pick up the books and am gone. I think the library is the one place I go to the most out of everywhere.
And like, what about the fucking reference section? A library is basically the ONLY place you will find some of those books, unless you’re asble to afford to shell out 1000 dollars for a text. And a lot of information is ONLY in those books, or ONLY in books that exist only in physcal format, and are expensive/out of print. But there’s no way anybody could possibly want that information. RIght?
Like, the Dewey Decimal system books are still in copyright, so you only get the base information for it online, and thew books themselves are expensive as FUCK. The library was the only place I could ever find them.
giddygirlgumption and I took our kids to the library literally 3 hours ago. And it was the second time we’d been in three days. My daughters have been going to this library since they were 9 months old and newborn respectively. They attended storytime, they’ve poured through the children’s section. In fact, there’s a little teddy bear that stands about 2 1/2 feet tall that is post upright with welcoming arms when you get to the children’s floor (the entire basement). My daughters have been attending this library since they were shorter than this bear and they now tower over it. In fact, the older girl volunteered there this summer.
We’ve checked out music, dvds, books galore, done research and they’ve both learned the Scratch programming language in classes there. The library is part of our life, part of our normal. And we’re not alone when we go there.
Even if you think you can replace every single function of a library with something else, you shouldn’t. Why? Because a library is a place you can go, as an individual human being, and interact with other individual human beings, without feeling pressured to buy one single thing or spend one single cent (unless you have an overdue fine. Then you should really pay your fine). We have a rapidly dwindling number of those around.
I work in an abortion clinic. It is my job to accompany the patient from beginning to end making sure they have the information they need to make an informed decision about their procedure. I test their blood,…