Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In praise of libraries...

I wasn't really thinking of writing in the blog today; I have a deadline Friday and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired, but then I read this in an industry blog: the Free Library of Philadelphia has announced it is closing. Philadelphia is a city of over 1.5 million, although, like Detroit, it has lost about half a million residents in the past 40 years and is in poor financial shape. Now granted, the library could be (and probably will be) rescued by last-minute financing from the state of Pennsylvania, but to me the thought is unimaginable. No library? No free access to books and movies and magazines and newspapers for 1.5 million residents? No reading programs for kids, no afterschool activities, no school or day care visits? No computer classes, classes for small businesses and job seekers, no visits to senior centers? No space for community meetings, GED classes, and ESL classes? No internet access to reference databases (without which I couldn't do my job)? Seriously, no library?

I know the financial situation is dire ... but I also know from talking to librarians and people in publishing that when the economy goes down, library use goes up. More people seek out free entertainment or use the free internet or take classes to improve their job skills. So seriously, no library? It's like roads or police services—everybody uses them. Everybody should be willing to pay for them, you would think. I don't want to get into the politics of library funding, since there are always some who complain we're taxed too much as it is, government should cut waste, blah blah blah. I don't care if that's true: some things are worth the money, and public libraries are high on that list. Ben Franklin founded the first public lending library in the U.S.; what's more democratic, more American, than the library?

No libraries? That's like no music, or no air.

1 comment:

  1. Holy cow. I hadn't heard this. I survived Tink's 0-almost 3 years with the help of the meager but near my house children's room at the main branch of the Philly Public Library.

    This stinks.