This year, our library director moved on to one with a bigger building, generous budget, more programs, larger staff and greater opportunities. The local newspaper sent around a reporter to interview her before she left, and he was there when I stopped in to give her a farewell gift and hug. Some weeks later, I went to the library to read the article but I could not find the section of the paper in which it had run. I asked the research librarian about it. She said they had discovered the newspaper missing that morning; someone had stolen it. To me this was an ironic but telling action that underscored the director’s departure. But more than that, I think it shows that there are even worse behaviors when it comes to people’s use of the library; my director had just been too kind to burden me with them.
In a world where children cannot go to school because of poverty and oppression, this is a sad statement about our own society. That we give no thought to abusing a resource that offers free education on any topic we choose; that libraries must practically beg for more money to provide additional services and hours; that they are staffed largely by volunteers who many choose to verbally abuse and disrespect, makes me embarrassed to be a part of such a gro
I am not that old. I understand that the Internet has changed the way we think about knowledge and research, and these are things no longer solely provided by libraries. But I know I am not alone in believing that the library is an essential supplement to any public education system. In this age of technology, if children are not taught to frequent and use the library, they will instead fall back on Internet research alone, something that is far from reliable or tangible. Sadly, the practice will also ultimately end up producing a generation that neither knows nor cares about using libraries at all.
Let’s revisit our priorities. It’s time we start giving the library its proper due, to teach our children not only the importance, but the magic of reading, and make them aware of the privilege they have by being given free access to libraries. As a bookworm, I feel there is nothing like the sensation of a whole building full of people in silent concentration, and that no web page can replace the feeling of a book in your lap, or your fingers between the pages. But I also believe that the thirst for knowledge, regardless of the medium from which that knowledge comes, begins in childhood. By giving our children the foundation of a starting point — a building devoted to furthering the mind and expanding horizons — we are providing them with a mental springboard that can take them anywhere they want to go.
And aren’t endless possibilities what all parents want for their children?