"When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself." – Isaac Asimov
Is everything wonderful dying out? Remember VCRs…land-line telephones…cassette tapes…those Fruitopia drinks? Just today I saw a pay phone for sale in an antique store, for crying out loud! Okay, maybe none of those things were great, but here's one that is: the local library.
As I reported recently, the West Virginia Book Festival is no more. And I’m still angry about it. But the fact is, with my county public library system up against a forty percent budget cut, things will be eliminated – and, sadly, the festival may only be the tip of the iceberg. Shortly after news broke about the demise of the festival, the local paper dished up this story about the possible closing of up to six of the county’s branches.
It’s sad news but, honestly, I couldn’t tell you the last time I was in one of those branches, which makes me a contributor to the perceived irrelevance of the public library in our society.
For too many of us, the library isn’t considered a destination anymore, and when no one comes to the show, the show closes. I write books. I read books. But I do not go to the library to get them. Instead, I download them to my electronic device or buy them on Amazon for cheaper than what I’d pay in a retail shop. I do enjoy browsing the aisles in the brick and mortar store, but I’ll often pull up the same item on my smartphone and search for a cheaper price online. (It’s a practice that’s now known as “showrooming,” because we have to name everything, don’t we?)
I tell myself that libraries aren’t just for book borrowing anymore. They play host to a wealth of activities for folks of all ages, from classes and workshops to book sales and events that sometimes have little or nothing to do with reading (at least not directly). In fact, my own organization is hosting a gardening workshop series at one local branch this season. I tell myself that the library can be a community hub. In fact, this post calls the library vital to creating an informed citizenry that is the hallmark of any democracy. And why not? I’ll believe it. But I don’t put that notion into practice.
The fact is I have become a literary snob. And, chances are, so have you.
That’s right. I just called you a snob. Are you going to take that? I suppose the point of this rant is to encourage us all to take advantage of the invaluable resource that is our local library. I have a branch about a half-mile from my house. Why don’t I stop in there, for goodness sake?
What about you? Do you take advantage of your public library? Why or why not? And what would make you stop in the next time you pass? Give it a try, even if for nostalgia’s sake. Something tells me you see won’t that old-fashioned card catalog anymore.