19 February 2011

Do We Really Need to Save the Libraries?

I'm not sure what it is about living in London, but I swear my typical Vote-Blue-or-Go-Home attitude with the Democrats seems to have been questioned.  I'm pretty positive I'm not a cruel elitist - last I checked - but I have started questioning policies and values. It's just a curiosity to see why we believe in some things, much like a 4 year old that keeps asking 'but why?' I suppose.

I was recently watching 10'O Clock Live, which has annoyingly grown on me.  I definitely threw a fit when Channel 4 took The Daily Show off the air and replaced it with this weekly update of satirical news. A segment of the show discussed the budget cuts and closing of libraries and it got me wondering: how often does the average person use the library?

I will probably be the first person on a soapbox to proclaim how much the library did for me as a kid.  First there is the BookIt club which inspired me to read from a young age (hey you got free Pizza Hut then!)

Then I became interested in learning languages and picked up a basic American Sign Language reader at age 8, and my first French book later on.  Not to mention the geek in me was born with all of the science books there!  But even then, at nearly 20 years ago (wow time flies) I could remember that some libraries were simply better than others.

Cleveland Public Library - Rockport Branch
This is the library that was directly outside of my school.  There were (Cleveland has been hit pretty hard with school closures and consolidations in the recent years) at least four schools within a mile radius of this library.  I never liked going there. It was small and looked unloved and didn't have a selection of anything that interested me, so it seemed pointless for me to spend my time there.

Cleveland Public Library - West Park Branch
This is a library that was just a little further of a walk from my house.  It was nicer, the books were newer, there was more space inside - it just felt like how a library should.  Oddly enough, there weren't any schools as close to this library in comparison.  Although Rockport was closer, I would not have been devastated if that library had closed because West Park wasn't that far away and it was better.  Maybe if they had closed Rockport and put the money into the libraries in the schools or the schools themselves even, I wouldn't have had to say there 'were' four schools in the area.

As we get older it's to be expected that most of us won't need the library the way we once did. We'll have stopped learning new things (which is sad), won't need to do research, etc.  Also a majority of households (UK - US) have Internet and PCs and can download information right at home.  Is a small local library that necessary anymore?  What type of people go there now? How is it being used, if at all, by the rest of the community? Should we be focusing more on the libraries in our schools and universities?

On the other hand, of course there are still some people out there that don't have the Internet or eReaders that some of us are so accustomed to now, and need to use actual books.  However, to be clear, the question isn't should we abolish all libraries - I'm pretty sure the day someone tries to close the British Library protests will break out.  Maybe we should ask why certain libraries are being targeted?  Or why there needs to be more than one library in x amount of miles from each other?  If there's a choice between two local libraires that aren't that far apart, and one of them isn't living up to its standards for the community, should it really be saved?

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