January 23, 2007
Public libraries are good for the community
By Margaret Jakubcin
There are 10 reasons you need your public library (even if you’ve never set foot inside one).
If you are a reader and a book lover, you probably already use the library, love the library and cannot imagine life without a library. But even if you are not a library user, even if the extraordinary access libraries provide to books, movies, music, cultural programming, information, databases, and the world wide Web has never tempted you through the library door, you still need the library.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Public libraries are good for the economy. Studies have shown that public libraries have an economic impact that greatly exceeds their cost, returning somewhere between $4 to $6 to the local economy for every $1 invested. A healthy library system is indicative of a healthy community. A community without a library is unattractive to businesses and individuals looking to locate to a new area.
2. Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy. Free speech, intellectual freedom, and open access to information are essential to a free nation. Public libraries protect the right of every citizen, regardless of race, age, gender, or economic status, to have access to any information that is vital to his/her life. Without libraries, a significant number of Americans would not have access to books or the Internet.
3. Libraries play an important role in helping young children develop reading skills. Early childhood literacy and exposure to a book-rich environment are significant predictors of a child’s success in school and in life. The Internet has yet to come anywhere near filling this need.
4. Public libraries provide support to schools and students. School libraries are currently endangered in Oregon, where there are now only 433 school librarians to serve 1,290 schools. As school budgets have continued to dwindle, public libraries have increasingly stepped in to fill the gap, recognizing that today’s students are tomorrow’s workers, leaders, and decision makers.
5. Libraries are forward-thinking, and play an important role at the cutting edge of information technology. Libraries provide Internet access to many who cannot afford it, or who live in areas where access is unavailable or slow. Librarians are trained to help Internet users winnow out irrelevant information, find specialized Internet resources, and determine the reliability, authority and safety of the information retrieved. In addition, American librarians are lobbying to maintain “net neutrality” to ensure that Internet resources remain available to everyone — not just to those who can afford to pay for them.
6. Libraries are repositories of the accumulated understanding of mankind. We live in a time when the information-of-the-moment is constantly at our fingertips, but it is important to remember that information is not knowledge. Libraries house, protect, and share materials which support a thoughtful and in-depth understanding of the world.
7. Public libraries are a bargain. The average annual cost to fund an Oregon library is only abut $42 per capita. That is less than the average cost of two hardcover books, a couple month’s subscription to Netflix, or a year’s subscription to only one or two magazines. It is, of course, a fraction of what it costs to obtain home access to the Internet.
8. Libraries provide a neutral community gathering place for the free exchange of ideas, culture, and entertainment. Libraries promote a sense of belonging and interpersonal connection in a society that is increasingly “virtual.”
9. A vital and attractive library helps define a community, encourages civic pride, and invests residents with a sense of ownership.
10. Libraries are the heart and soul of a community and reflect the value residents place on literacy, education, culture, and freedom.
And this site is a useful resource about libraries, and it also has a page listing cool librarians; that is, librarians which played important characters on tv and movies. Think Rupert Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Evelyn Carnarvon (Rachel Weisz) of The Mummy!