That’s the question posed to me after I shared a post about the impending closing of Philadelphia’s public library system. I assume the thought behind the inquiry was that no one really uses libraries anymore so what’s the big deal? I say that public libraries are still a big deal to many people and I am one of them.
When is the last time you used the services of a public library? Was it back when you were still trying to understand the Dewey Decimal System and the card catalog? For me, I’d say about three weeks ago. I meant to go yesterday but had a bunch of errands to run and didn’t make it. I have a library card for every city I’ve ever lived in. Poughkeepsie, Brooklyn, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Philadelphia. I still have the cards! I use public libraries for a quiet place to get away, a place to use the printer or wireless internet access. I *gasp* check out books and have been known in the past to check out movies as well. When I was a kid, I loved to go to the library and look at the microfiche from years past. In fact, I went into a local branch of TD Banknorth two days ago which used to be called the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank. It’s an old building and must have been a bank back when folks drove down Market Street with a horse and buggy. There were framed pictures of the city back then – black and white scenes capturing daily life of a time long gone by. While I was waiting to see the next teller I thought to myself, “I should go by the library and look up some more of these photos.” See, I’m the kind of person who likes to do that stuff every now and again. When I’m struck with the desire to borrow a book, flip through microfiche, or just have some peace I’m glad I can go to a local library branch and do so.
I get the other side though, I do. You can rent movies through Netflix and RedBox or you can watch them on your computer. You can read books online or get a Kindle and carry ebooks wherever you go. Many Americans have internet access at home or at work. Starbucks and Barnes & Noble provide big cushy chairs you can lounge in all day. What use do public libraries serve in 2009? As a person who has access to all of those things but still uses the library on occasion, I feel that attitude is pretty elitist and doesn’t consider the numerous people who don’t have access. Continue reading