I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood experiences of visiting my local library and bookmobile each week. I remember the first book “loaned” to me: Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches The Egg. It saddened me when I read this crayoned note, via Facebook via Elephant Journal via the Daily Watt (certainly some symbolism there), knowing so many children will miss out on the valuable experience of visiting their local libraries:
“In 1971, Troy, Michigan’s children’s librarian Marguerite Hart sent out dozens of letters…notable figures asking for words to inspire the public library’s younger patrons…[here's] the timeless response she received from one Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss.”
Heartbreaking addendum: “the Troy Public Library is being shut down this year due to a vote that decided our city’s decreased budget would be better utilized elsewhere.”
So many literary and life skills were acquired on “library day”. These 5 skills have followed me throughout life and gave me the foundation I needed to become a teacher, writer and editor. I can’t help feeling these skills are dying away as libraries shut their doors:
5 Library Skills
2. Obtaining a library card was a big deal. We took this as a grown-up responsibility. In my case, I got my first wallet just to house my new library card.
3. Delight in being read to during “story hour” by another adult other than a parent or teacher.
4. Deadlines. We were taught to keep a close eye on the date on the book pocket otherwise we had to pay the nickel if the book was late!
5. Reading books for enjoyment.
While libraries may have been the first, and for some children the only place to learn such skills, libraries have also become a safe haven for job-seekers.
Last year, at the biannual Public Librarians Conference in Portland, Ore., the main topic of discussion was navigating budget cutbacks at the same time the recession-fed patronage of libraries has increased.
Camila Alire, president of the American Library Association:
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We have people going to public libraries, using them to sort of retool and find new jobs, get help in how to complete a resume and how to do effective interviews and things like that, and hours are being cut back.”
Library closures are not only a US problem. In the UK, libraries are also seen as an easy target when it comes to balancing the books. According to the Guardian, “Up to 800 – a fifth of the total (libraries) – could close as local authorities look for savings.”
What can be done about this problem? In Thailand, a non-profit organization (funded by private companies and contributions) that does humanitarian work through architecture, renovated an abandoned and dilapidated space using local and reclaimed materials to created a functional community library. The aim of this library project was to strengthen a passion for reading that would eventually contribute to positive development in the area. Read more about this beautiful library space, and check out pictures here.
What have libraries given you over the years? Do you still use your public library? Has your library shut down? Any ideas on how to save this treasured institution?