By Nia Simone McLeod
As a bright-eyed and afro-puffed child, there wasn’t anything on this planet that could make my smile go ear to ear quite like the words, “Let’s go to the library.” Every time I stepped into my local library I was always amazed by the bright colors and the sheer number of books. I was also mesmerized by the fact that I could have any one that I wanted at any time. It was almost too good to be true. And whether I came home with two books or ten books, I was always happy that I went and already excited to come back the next week. At 23, libraries still fill my heart with joy and no other place in the community has been able to do the same since.
In today’s age where technology reigns supreme and every fact is just a Google search away, the everyday library can seem obsolete. But the truth is, we need libraries now more than ever. Contrary to popular belief, they do a whole lot more than just lending books out. They provide a world of resources to the community and they bring people near and far together more than other buildings on the block.
- Libraries Help The Community Thrive
Libraries are stepping stones towards success. They offer free quality classes on subjects like computer basics, resume building, and job searching. These classes provide key information to people who may not have access to these resources otherwise. Also, libraries provide a wide variety of reference books. It’s quite hard to find these reference books in full on the internet, especially for free. Some libraries make special equipment like cameras and expensive editing software available for use at any time. These assets are investing in the amazing ideas of the community and single-handedly bringing creative ideas to fruition.
Even just providing a safe and secure place to work is an amazing asset in itself especially for stay-at-home moms and entrepreneurs alike. Libraries are a safe haven for community members everywhere to work towards their goals efficiently and stay productive. They also level the playing field so all people have the opportunity to make their dreams happen.
- Libraries Bring the Community Together
There’s something so special about being personally recommended a piece of art like a book or a movie by a librarian. Technological services like Amazon or Google can’t imitate that intimate gesture. People often trust personal recommendations more than just data and numbers. Contrary to popular belief, personal recommendation is still the most efficient form of advertising beating out their online counterparts by 10%. Librarians are an authoritative, yet welcoming figure that adults, children, and everyone in between bond with over a long period of time.
Also, libraries often host free special interest groups that bring like-minded people together who may not have found each other otherwise. Just this week alone, Henrico Libraries is hosting an Anime Trivia Night, a group discussion involving the evolution of space travel and Star Trek, and an entire day dedicated to celebrating author Roald Dahl’s birthday. There are also storytime groups for parents and children that offer free and engaging entertainment that’s worlds better than sitting in front of a children’s TV show. The library is unlike any other community building because it brings people together through their collective love of knowledge and learning.
- Libraries Preserve History
With the concept of “fake news” being a hot topic, libraries stand alone as a beacon of truth. For decades upon decades, libraries have preserved history through newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, maps, and more. And, unlike on the internet, you don’t have to worry about misinformation. These resources are just as authentic as the day that they were printed. You have the opportunity to witness history as it flies off of the page and make your own opinions through true and genuine facts.
- Libraries Provide Mostly Free Resources
Forbes posted a now-deleted opinion piece in July 2018 by LIU Post economist Panos Mourdoukoutas entitled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” Mourdoukoutas argued that libraries have been efficiently replaced over the years, “Community and wifi are now provided by Starbucks; video rentals by Netflix and Amazon Prime; and books by Amazon.”
Yes, you do pay taxes for libraries, but you’re getting the best deal of your life. Writer and librarian Oleg Kagan states that the average U.S household pays $7.50 a month in taxes for their library. When you think about how many items are available for borrowing and free resources are at your disposal, that’s an incredible deal. Since the library provides such a low-cost entry point, it’s a perfect place for underprivileged communities to have access to things that they may not have otherwise, like free wifi.
- Books Are Still Extremely Important
Just as your English teacher told you back in middle school, “Books are essential.” You may believe that the internet offers more information, but the quality between the two is much, much different. On the internet, there’s no filter. Anyone and everyone can create a website and call the information on it fact. But, the library is one of those sacred places that clearly separates fact from fiction. Fiction has its place to thrive and non-fiction does as well. Also, you’re surrounded by books that are written by esteemed and legendary authors with credentials for days.
When people tell me that they’ve “sworn off reading,” it’s usually because of a horrific book that they were forced to read back in public school. But, there truly is a book for everyone and they’re all at the library just waiting to be explored.
In 2018 and beyond, the library remains a necessity within the community. Every day they help great people within the community succeed, learn, and thrive. And, they’ve also helped me. There are many times throughout my life where I’ve turned to the library for help. Through late-night statistics study sessions and sudden interests in Photography, the library has always been there to help me learn more.
The next time that you get some free time, go out and visit your local library. There truly is something for everyone and you’ll likely find a worthwhile resource that you’ll be able to utilize in your everyday life.