Libraries Still Have a Purpose

Maxsports writes below that libraries should be torn down and the money used to maintain libraries should be distributed to people in the form of computers. He believes computers are replacing libraries.

I don’t think he’s been in a library lately!

I work in a library in an institution of higher learning, so my view is somewhat skewed, but I have, since I was a very young woman, supported libraries and will continue to do so. Libraries are more used than ever, if my own anecdotal experiences are any indication. This campus library is packed with people seven days a week with students using library resources, from the archives to the manipulable materials to the reference books. And yes, students even check out books, amazingly! In fact, the last three books I wanted from this library were already checked out to a student.

Our local library is less than a mile from our house, and my kids ride their bicycles there once a week (yes, even the 6 year old). They love the library, the librarians, and all of the activities they can participate in. They never come home without a stack of books to read, or a story to tell about some experience they had. My kids have computers at home (yes, even the 6 year old) but that doesn’t keep them from loving and using the library and all of its resources.

What can you get there? Free movies for one. We rarely pay to rent movies, as they are always available at the library within a month of release. Books, lots of books. I can’t afford to buy every book that piques my or my kids’ interest, and borrowing them from the library is the only way to go. It also saves me from buying books that end up being duds. I often hear good things about a book and am tempted to rush out and buy it, but several times I’ve held off, checked it out from the library instead, and got halfway through it only to find it wouldn’t have been worth a fraction of what I might have paid for it. And I won’t even mention the best sellers that come out week after week, fresh and ready at my library, that I cannot afford to spend $20 on at the bookstore.

The biggest advantage of the library, for me, is access to librarians with amazing stores of knowledge. There is no better research on this planet than what exists in the mind of a talented reference librarian. If I’m researching a topic, I can go on my own to the Internet and do my best, but the real, solid, dead-on information is going to come from the librarian who can help me narrow my search and also give me alternate ways of finding information. The advantage of Lexis-Nexis and other library databases cannot be discounted either.

And most libraries also have archival information that will never be found on the Internet. Where else can I look at (and touch) an original piece of work that has been lovingly and carefully preserved but at the library? The Internet cannot do that for me.

Lastly, libraries offer free meeting space for community organizations. Getting involved in my community is as easy as checking the library’s calendar of events; I’ve attended meetings on zoning enforcement, road planning, political action, crafting, and historical research.

And my local library even has a coffee shop, big comfy chairs, and free speedy wi-fi. What’s not to love about that?

As much as I love the Internet, and my computer, and all the things I can do with it, there is a certain value to human interaction that I would miss if I did everything in front of the computer. I cannot imagine not having a librarian to consult when I’m looking for accurate information, or having a library to crash in for quiet time and a good fun read. Thinking on a global scale, there are plenty of countries without libraries or access to information for citizens; to abolish libraries here in the U.S. is to negate them throughout the rest of the world, and that can never be a good thing.

Libraries still have a purpose. I hope we haven’t “come so far” as to not be able to recognize the value of libraries in our everyday lives.

4 thoughts on “Libraries Still Have a Purpose

  1. Great post Susabelle! We homeschool our kids and they have new laptops, hi-speed internet, a Flip video camera, digital cameras and lot of geek toys, since their dad is a geek! However Mom takes them to the library regularly and they check out a stack of books.

    I opened my son’s bedroom door recently, after knocking of course, hoping he would want to get online with me and watch some YouTube videos, or create one of our own, since I’m teaching him video editing, but what I found was him on his bed reading Shakespeare – from the Library. Know what I did? I told him I was proud of him and encouraged him to continue his reading.

    Every GNC Geek should take some time to go check out their local library soon.

    Nicely done Susabelle!

  2. I agree Suse, But as i tried to comment on the earlier post, my local library has decided that instead of being a library and serving ALL of the community it wants to be the local rescue mission
    children can no longer visit without a vigilant adult because several children have been approached by the homeless men,
    we no longer have computers in use for patrons because of the vandalism,
    to use the bathroom you have to go through 3 locked doors,
    you cannot sit and read out on the patio because of the panhandling, mentally ill rantings and smell of urine and pot.
    I WOULD love to have access to what you have, but i guess ill have to go over to the red cross to sit and read a book.

  3. Methinks Maxsport has some blinders on.

    Computers are great, and I earn my living off of them, but nothing beats some quiet time reading a manuscript or novel in the solitude of our town library.

    Call it down-time, get away from the spouse for a bit, whatever….and I think Maxsport may find your local librarian is one of the last, true guardians of free-speech in this country.

    Maxsport conveniently forgets that the internet can be filtered, controlled and manipulated in both delivery and content (see China, or try to simply send me an email at my workplace: ain’t gonna happen.). Libraries, by their nature, are open to all. Your mind rules; not the box on your desk.

    The only limitation is the availability of funds to keep them ahead of the intellectual curve, rather than at a reasonable parity.

    Plus, you can rent DVDs, and save money by not using NetFlix (not a slam against NF, just a personal finance tip)

  4. Thank *goodness* for this … I was appalled at the prior post, and was saddened to think that even more people had bought into the fallacious notion that somehow playing GTA is as educational as reading Dickens. It isn’t.

    Libraries matter because books matter. The ability to find loads of material of questionable authenticity on the internet has bred a generation of ill-informed and lazy kids who are increasingly illiterate and under prepared for the workplace or higher education.

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