I love libraries. What writer doesn’t?
We write for many reasons. More than one novice writer wants to be the next Tom Clancy or Stephen King. How can they emulate literary heroes without reading? Reading and writing go hand in hand. So, although there are lots of reasons why we write, reading has to be tops on the list.
As a child, I devoured books on everything. My hometown library is where I read them. Over the years, libraries have changed with the times, keeping up with societal trends along with the technology so pervasive in our lives. Today they almost resemble PC labs. Perhaps that’s what they’re evolving into eventually. For the moment though, books still sit alongside rows of PC’s. Whatever their ultimate evolution, libraries haven’t altered the fundamental reasons why we visit them: Research and intellectual stimulation.
The latter is most special and hardest to capture. Libraries encourage a sense of intellectual freedom like none other. The physical act of browsing books can never be replaced by the Internet. Ever find a book a library patron had left on a table? I have, checked it out and was the better for it. Bookstores are wonderful. You’ll catch me often at Barnes & Noble, however it simply can’t replicate a library’s literate history or scholarship. Besides, commercial aspects of selling coffee along with books is absent at a library. For me, the best bookstore clerk in the world will never replace a dedicated librarian.
Recent attacks on the popularity or even usefulness of public libraries aren’t only surprising, but wholly inaccurate. True, some economically depressed communities in America may have inadequate library facilities. Possibly it’s not a question of funds, but allocation. A priority for one community may be new police patrol cars or better equipped firefighters. However, the public library is the real backbone of a town’s commitment to education.
I can’t speak for each state in America about library conditions, but here in Bayonne,NJ, we can’t complain. My hometown library has never been busier, livelier, or cheerier. PC’s are new with blazing fast Internet. Nearly every day workshops are held, with so many there’s a schedule to keep abreast. Our librarians are not only helpful, but extremely computer literate. Book shelves boast up to the minute offerings like Barack Obama’s, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Also DVD selections outstrip local video stores, there’s no wait time, plus it’s cheaper!
Our library’s full name is: Free Public Library & Cultural Center of Bayonne. Right there holds key to the reason why libraries remain essential. Libraries aren’t just places for books or periodicals. They’re a physical landmark of learning and strong testament to the pursuit of intellectual expansion for the individual and community. These are centers of culture. Libraries may be challenged, under funded or even neglected at times, but they definitely aren’t dying.
For me and many others, American public libraries are only getting better.