OK, I’ll admit my bias at the top. I’m married to a librarian. I have also been a volunteer for a children’s library, as well. However, as a middle class, white guy, I’ve used the public library pretty regularly for myself throughout my adult life.
Now that kind of goes against the reason people mostly defend public libraries. The defense is normally that it helps poor people and minorities.
That defense is 100 percent correct and should be the primary reason to defend libraries. It’s just not the only one.
But let’s start with it. I’ve watched parents who couldn’t afford to buy their kids books make weekly trips to the library to borrow dozens of books at a time. The kids in the children’s section bounded about the room, picking books and playing with the toys set up. The older kids would come to treat the teen room as a home. They’d meet friends or borrow CDs, movies or books.
The library also offers people without computers or regular internet connections a chance to use email, search online job boards, print off resumes and enjoy other community programs. As an entertainment editor at two different communities, I regularly put items in our magazines about diverse programs from computer training, language arts skills, coding and even parenting issues.
Of course, they also had events like teen writing clubs, Lego clubs, mystery readers, philosophy clubs, knitting clubs and more.
No doubt, society benefits from the availability of those programs, whether they’re used by lower, middle or upper classes.
There’s a popular meme often shared by people who support libraries.
It’s good, but it still doesn’t do justice.
Now many people who vent about libraries are whining about where there tax dollars go and are entitled, faux libertarians who only care about public resources that affect white people. They’re wrong in that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to belong to a civil society.
But they’re wrong in another area they seem to not want to grasp. They too, can benefit from the library. When I was in college, I didn’t just use the library at Penn State for classes. They had an amazing array of videos on different topics. I’d pick them out and watch them. Subjects like the Ark of the Covenant or a Ken Burns documentary. As a young adult who still bought most of the books I read, I would often visit the libraries in the towns I lived in to check out some magazines or see some of the exhibits they had. As a journalist, I could always rely on finding a story any time I visited the library. As a parent, I find it to be a great place to take the kids for an hour.
If you don’t think your town needs a library, I challenge you to snoop around s bit. Visit it and see what you find.
It’s also worth noting that the towns I covered that didn’t care for their libraries were often the towns that were themselves falling into disrepair. It was often the small, rural town that didn’t have regular library hours or the building wasn’t being kept up.
Every town, big or small, needs a good library.
Our friend has realized the error of his ways.
But someone in his position never should have underestimated the value of a library in the first place.