Fox Chicago News recently asked “Are Libraries Necessary, or a Waste of Tax Money?” Really? The article by Anna Davlantes goes on to talk about how libraries “eat up millions of your hard earned tax dollars” and as proof of the irrelevancy of libraries, an undercover camera crew recorded library visitors for an hour. During that hour, they recorded 300 visitors with most of them using the free internet. Hmmm…
This is your proof that libraries are irrelevant? Three hundred visitors with “most” of them using the free internet? Did you ask them why they were using internet access at the library instead of in their homes? Could it be that they can’t afford internet access? In case you haven’t noticed, the economy has tanked and internet access is a luxury that some people truly cannot afford. Did you ask the computer users what types of sites they were accessing? How many of them were applying for jobs? Many jobs now require that you apply online. Were some of them looking for continuing education opportunities? And so what if they were just spending an hour or so surfing the web? Escapism helps people cope, no matter what form that escapism may take.
Libraries are more than book repositories, they are gateways to information and entertainment. Just ask any librarian what he or she does all day and you’ll find that more often than not we’re not just pointing out the latest best sellers. We’re helping people put together resumes, we’re showing them how to care for loved ones, we’re introducing children to books and creating lifelong learners through story time and we’re demonstrating the latest in technology. And, yes, we’re helping people find books.
Rather than trying to point out how libraries “eat up tax dollars,” how about taking the time to get to know your local librarian and see how their services help those in need?