Why do we need libraries? Bonus: How to make new blog friends.

Happy Monday all!  (Especially now that it is almost over ...)  I just wanted to share a couple of interesting informational tidbits.

First, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I've started listening to the Litopia podcasts, and the most recent episode of Open House really caught my attention.  Being a UK show, there was much discussion of the widespread closure of UK libraries due to governmental funding shortages.  Folks are trying to rally to save them, but it doesn't look good.  Here's a link to listen to the episode.  (Adult content warning; they use--you guessed it--four letter words! ;)

There are some excellent points made throughout the broadcast, but one thing really stuck out to me: an author was asked by BBC news why she thought we needed libraries.  Sadly, the author struggled to give a straightforward answer (most likely due to being shocked at being asked such an idiotic question).  With the future of libraries in the US not facing a much brighter future, it made me wonder how I would answer that question, or if I even could in a concise and effective way.  I'm talking about an answer that doesn't include the 'warm and fuzzy' or strictly intrinsic/internal value received.  Something quantifiable that would get the attention of people who don't use libraries.

So I'll ask you, readers great and small: Why do we need libraries?  If I'm ever faced with trying to save my local, I sure want to have a great answer.

The second thing I'd like to bring to your attention is a wonderful networking opportunity.  Blogger Rachael Harrie is holding her second annual Platform Building Crusade.  Basically, you sign up and get partnered with other bloggers who are taking part in the Crusade.  Then you'll blog about similar topics, follow each other, and hopefully expand your readership.  It's pretty easy, and I've already gotten a handful of new folks to following and we haven't even started yet!

Rach has some great ideas, and most importantly I think this is going to be a blast.  So head on over and get signed up!



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  2. I live in Scotland and have been watching this whole debacle with a sense of disgust, I've watched librarians deal with pay freezes/cuts, reduced hours and now the sad prospect of possibly losing their jobs.
    Libraries are crucial for so many people; kids at school who use their local library for homework etc, young mothers who attend baby/toddler sessions, people who need internet access but can't afford to have it in their homes, people who need to send or receive faxes, people who love to read but can't afford to pay £7+ for a book. And then there's the atmosphere in a library, I spent practically every spare moment of my childhood in my local library, and I still do to this day. It's not just about libraries being "warm&fuzzy", it's about all the other support they provide to people in poorer communities.

    I think it's unfair that our government has decided that so many people can do without such a massive part of their community, it's a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting dumber.

  3. There are longer answers, but this is what I posted on Twitter on Saturday, which was #savelibraries day here in the UK: We need libraries because ignorance is not bliss, it's dangerous.

  4. We love our local library and I especially like their used book store where I can donate books I've read and buy best selling books for .25 cents.
    Last week, we picked up a four-inch thick book called "Literature", obviously a text book for .10 cents. It has snippets from all the greatest works of classical literature, poetry, essays and even suggestions on how to write your own. What a bargain!

  5. So many reasons why we need libraries! I agree with all the ones Lady posted and definitely what Girl said! Desert's library sounds awesome. I think another reason is with the growing popularity of e-readers I greatly fear for the future of our classics! Not only are libraries becoming endangered but bookstores as well. So many are filing for bankruptcy and closing their stores. It is terrifying. What will happen to those books?? I don't want my kids to grow up in a world where they won't experience the delight of entering a library or used bookstore and smell that great musty smell and browse the spines of well used and loved books, to pull one down and run their hand over the aged pages.
    Okay, I will stop;)I actually came to your blog to introduce myself as a fellow crusader and say nice to meet you;-)

  6. I'm with Amanda in that it's more than just what's physically in a a library, it's the smells, the experience of wandering the aisles, the old filing systems, the excitement and mystery of having so many diverse books right at your fingertips - not just at your Blackberry thumbs.

    It's hard to make a case for old-fashioned libraries these days, but for those of us who grew up going to them, studying in them and getting lost in them, there is no question or discussion needed. Jeez, I'm gonna make myself misty. Ha.

  7. Unfortunately with computers, information is now at our fingertips! With that said, people take the lazy way out. We used to go to libraries, now we research online. It's sad, really.

    Hi, I'm a fellow crusader!***waves*** Nice to "virtually" meet you!
    Dare to Follow Your Heart

  8. Everyone voiced my thoughts. Scary. Taking away our books and the little bit of privacy we have.

  9. Hi, I'm a fellow Crusader. Nice to "meet" you. I love your blog title - I used the same quote in a post on my blog a week or so ago! I'm a picture book author, so far, but hoping to write for MG and/or YA someday :)

  10. Libraries are integral to communities. Think about where people meet and congregate. There aren't that many places left. They offer programming and services that make our communities richer.

  11. I worked as a library assistant all through college, went to libraries all my life, and LOVE books. I buy them, I rent them from the library, and I listen to them on CD during my commute.

    We need libraries because if we don't have a place where one can go, _for free_, and read, research, borrow books, and spend time around the written word, we will end up like Bradbury's _Farenheit 451_. And believe you me, we don't want that!! (If you haven't read it, get to your local library ASAP and do so!!)

    E-books are a fine _addition_ to the reading experience, and on-line research is useful, but what if the power fails? What if all the books were online and the server crashed? What if the digital memory gets amnesia? Also, have you ever heard of a concern that books cause cancer, ADD, or migraines? Nope. But electronic media might, depending on how they are used.

    Also--there is something visceral about the feel, weight, smell, and personal interaction of holding a physical book in your hands. I know my child LOVES to look at his books, pull them out, share them with us, have us read to him, etc. I don't believe we'd have the same devotion to reading without paper and ink.

  12. I worry about library closings for many of the warm and fuzzy reasons, but the reason that gets me the most is the word "free." Libraries provide reading and educational material to everyone, regardless of their income status. Close libraries and opportunity is lost. It puts those who can't afford books or e-readers or the internet at a disadvantage and will create further gaps between the economically advantaged and the disadvantaged.

  13. Liza said it best. "FREE" . They open up a huge opportunity to those that need it most. My family uses ours all the time. Since we read so much that I can't possibly buy all the books let alone house them. I'm not into the e-readers just yet.

    Hi to a fellow crusader.

  14. Excellent points made by all. I particularly loved Lady A's response, and plan on adding it to my arsenal of anti-library comebacks.

    I totally agree with the love of books (the smell, etc.), but I think we have to understand that we are moving into a world that doesn't necessarily see a value in those things. Consequently, we have to learn to use a common currency in order to deal with folks who might not see it the way we do.

    Particularly for the political crowd that is decrying libraries as a waste of money, and for the financially strapped general public, I think 'free' is an excellent selling point.

    Again, all of your responses are bang on!


  15. I love our libraries--one in particular. They're supportive--my books are all part of their permanent collection. I took computer classes there and used their computers until I felt confident enough to have one at home. I'll often check out a book and see if I like it before buying.

    I can't imagine not having any libraries.

  16. So many reasons we need libraries. For one thing I can't fit that many books in my house. Also, in Los Angeles, as I am sure is the case in many places, libraries provide a place for homeless people to go (okay not the best reason).
    Most libraries have programs for all ages, not just books. Many, many reasons. Heck, why do we need schools, hospitals, or parks for that matter?

    Don't forget that other great networking opportunity and creative challenge: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Follow link below to sign up.

    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

  17. @EJ: Thank you, I'm pretty passionate about libraries as my local library was my refuge from bullies when I was younger, and now my partner works in a library.

    @Arlee Bird: I totally agree with you!

  18. I was just at the library today with my kids, picking out picture books for them. We have a large Guatemalan population in our city, and there were a few families there. Many of the parents don't read (or speak) English, but their kids can. They sit at the tables and read stacks of books that they would never be able to read without a library. In order for a society to be truly literate, people, especially children, need access to a variety of reading materials.

    This debate is so ridiculous, it makes me want to brain someone with a very large hardback. I feel for those of you living in a society where libraries are coming under fire. What a travesty.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  19. Libraries aren't around just because books = good. In Chicago, the libraries are a place where teens can hang out instead of roaming the streets. They provide a resource for low income children who can not afford to buy books or who do not have the internet at home. There are also library sponsored programs that benefit the community as whole.

    It would be a shame if any community lost their library.


  20. Hi EJ,

    I'd go nuts without our local library! Been hangin' out there since I was a kid, and it was the first place in town I was allowed to walk to by myself. :)

    I just joined the Crusade and thought I'd stop by. :)

  21. More great points!

    @ Demitria: I think you're spot on about people only equating libraries to books. They are so much more!

    @ Becca: My fear is that they will come under fire as paper books continue to lose popularity. (Largely because of the thinking Demitria brought up.) I think the point some people are missing is that libraries can be a bridge between the past and the future, something I'd argue they've always been.

    @ Tena: Hey Crusader! What a great memory, and I agree that libraries have always been considered a haven of sorts.

  22. Being a librarian in an area with a service population of about 35,000 people, we have an annual materials budget of about $180,000 (adjusted for deep discounts that libraries receive). Are you personally able to spend $180,000 on books DVDs, Books on CD, Music CDs, and so on, each year? I'm sure not. :)

  23. Hey E.J., welcome on board the Crusade! I see that heaps of Crusaders have found you already, that's fantastic :)



  24. I need a library because I feel that if it weren't for the library that we had growing up that I wouldn't be who I am now. I wouldn't have been able to read all the books that I have read. A library is important for those who cannot afford to buy the books that they want to read.

  25. I wish my local library was better... In South Africa, the latest YA books seem to take a looong time to get to this library.

    Anyway, I just have to buy the books instead :-) (Yay for Book Depository!)

    I'm a fellow crusader, just btw, stopping by to say hey and to add another follower to your list :-)

    xx Rach


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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