Thursday, February 17, 2011

Libraries


There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration. 

 These are the words of Andrew Carnegie, at one time the richest man in the world.  Carnegie believed so strongly in libraries that he donated money to build over 2,500 public libraries. As a small child, I climbed the steep steps of the Carnegie Library in Tampa on weekly visits with my parents, breathed in that heady aroma of knowledge, and headed for the Zane Grey books. 

For me the library has always been a world of wonder – a world of possibilities where each book is a doorway to another time or place, another life.  When my husband and I moved to Madison County in 1975 to live on our mountainside farm, gardening, growing tobacco, and raising cattle, one of the first things I did, right after opening a bank account, was to get a library card. My mother, back in the suburbs of Tampa, might think that we had moved to a howling wilderness but I knew otherwise – there was a library and where there’s a library, there’s civilization.

My love affair with books is unending but the library offers more than books, even more than CD’s and DVD’s.  There are learning programs and materials for children and adults, including much-needed help for job seekers. Public computers and Internet access are a boon to those who can’t afford them at home. 

Look around – there’s story time for pre-schoolers, crafts classes, lectures and discussions, comfy chairs to relax and read a magazine or newspaper. There are microfiche archives of county newspapers as well as a whole room devoted to genealogy and local history. There’s a meeting room available to community groups. There’s even a phone number to call to ask a librarian whatever you need to find out about.

The library is the place for on-going learning and community involvement.  Everyone is welcome --there’s no admission test, no fees It’s small wonder that dictatorships and repressive regimes don’t fund libraries -- a vibrant library grows good citizens, informed citizens, citizens who can think for themselves.

How alarming to think that some of our legislators would seek to make deep cuts in library funding just at a time when libraries are most needed!

I have to agree with well known scientist and author Carl Sagan, when he said: 

“I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries. “

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28 comments:

Jill said...

I would love to see more funding for libraries. You make several good points about why they matter. Let's hope others take note. Online access, CDs, reading, reading, reading! As a kid, that was where my love of books began.

Martin H. said...

So well put, Vicki. Public sector cuts in the UK will probably see many of our local libraries disappear. As a retired information professional, this worries me a great deal.

joanny said...

Vicki:

Very well said, our books, our art if not supported -- our culture is destroyed. Quite frankly secretly well not now -- am upset of the burning of the Library of Alexandria. The loss of the ancient world's single greatest archive of knowledge, gone from our sight forever. Still today that loss is felt, many scholars still write about it. Lovely photo, how can you go wrong with photo's of books always a work of art in any condition. Oh but the digital, kindle world, I feel ancient.

Joanny

Victoria said...

My first summer job was in the local library. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Being in a library and getting paid for it? Bliss. If my love of painting hadn't been so strong, I would have become a librarian. The funding for art in schools in California, and much of the nation, is already gone. If funding for libraries is cut, or done away with completely, I think we are in for very bleak times indeed.

Bouncin' Barb said...

What happens when the world goes electronic book? I can't even imagine not holding a book or turning a page and the smell of the library or bookstore. Sad.

Elora said...

Here, here, Vicki! But then, they're also trying to eliminate Public Broadcasting altogether, too, by de-funding it. The right wing has always hated PBS. Pretty soon the wealthy will have all of us in the middle class, enslaved...again.

Elora

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Libraries are so, so important. At one time I considered being a librarian. Funny, I might have crossed paths with Laura Bush.

What I wonder is what will happen to our libraries as e-books grow in popularity. We currently have eight books checked out of our local library.
Sam

KarenB said...

Libraries serve another purpose in uncertain economic times. They are a resource for those seeking employment. Our library has computers for people to not only do online work, but also to create and print out resumes; it has job listings from the community; it provides workshops on job searching; it enhance the literacy of those looking as well. Our library, because of budget cuts, has had to lose some of its evening hours and staff.

@My Carolina Kitchen - many libraries are now including e-books that you may borrow. I haven't done it, so I don't really know the logistics of it, but I believe you get use of the e-book for a limited time without having to purchase it as you otherwise would.

Amy said...

Thank you from this librarian! :)

Barb, libraries are integrating ebooks into our collections. Regular books aren't going the way of the dinosaur anytime soon :)

Helen T said...

Libraries also offer knitting classes. I enjoy mine. Also like digital books I can borrow and knit while sitting in chair listening. I'll never forget the day several years ago when a young kid at the library walked up to a librarian and said "Do you have anything on John Adams? I think he was a vice president once." Bless the public library and PBS.

Vicki Lane said...

Yeah, I'm still upset about the burning of the library of Alexandria too -- and the destruction of the Mayan Codices and anytime that knowledge is lost forever.

Truly, as the legislators seek to cut funding to libraries and the arts, as well as totally de-funding NPR and PBS (how many children have learned to read and count because of Sesame Street?) it begins to seem that the barbarians are at the gates -- and the barbarians are our own people.

Of course these are hard times -- I accept that there need to be cuts. I'd suggest getting out of the two dubious 'wars' the US is engaged in, for a beginning.

And all of us library lovers can join the Friends of the Library and contribute in other ways -- writing or emailing our legislators to let them know our concerns.

Brian Miller said...

oh i am so with you..i fell in love with reading at an early age...i got to the library several times a week...

Canyon Girl said...

What a great post. Our library has had to cut its hours, but when it is open it has most of the things you mentioned available for free. My Dad took me to a library in Stockholm when I was really small. I never forgot the smell of the books and that they all had red bindings. I don't know if it was leather, but they do so stand out in my memory. And I have loved books ever since.

Miss_Yves said...

"...there was a library and where there’s a library, there’s civilization."
I agree with you!
Great choice of photos to show the wondreful world of reading

Deanna said...

I can't agree with you more!

As a child I would walk 3 or 4 miles to our public library. It was a world of wonder - and still is. Since that time they have expanded their offerings and done everything they can to keep up with the age of technology.

Our local libraries are essential to the health of our communities.
Thanks for this reminder.

Star said...

Indeed! A peaceful place where you can let your imagination have full rein. I like to go once a week. Now we also have music, talking books, newspapers and magazines. There are rows of computers. It's a great place. Long may it last.

marĂ­a cecilia said...

Dearest Vicki, when in Buenos Aires there were lots and lots of bookstores new and used ones and they where opened until 12 at night!!!
People in Argentina read a lot and the books cost half than in Chile.
We visited lots of bookstores, it was so great!!!!
hugs my dear

Louise said...

When I was a child there were two days that always had an extra-special glow to them. One was Saturday, when Mom would take me to the Public Library and the other was Wednesday, which was Library day at school. Of course, I headed for the Walter Farley books.

Brenda said...

Walter Farley!!! Oh I have not heard that name in FOREVER. I was right there with you Louise, checking those books out. I treasure my local library now, and the library played a huge role in my childhood. I too, am horrified at the thought of funding being cut to libraries, NPR, PBS... geesh. What else is there??

Vicki Lane said...

Planned Parenthood is next, Brenda. No affordable contraception for the poor -- and no support system for the ensuing children...

I still have my Black Stallion books...

Vicki Lane said...

Planned Parenthood is next, Brenda. No affordable contraception for the poor -- and no support system for the ensuing children...

I still have my Black Stallion books...

Misty said...

I agree 100%!! I work in a public library and I'm shocked by how we seem to get hit from all sides. The tighter the budget, the more we get cut, the more people use us and need us to provide more for them. It's a painful cycle. If you would like to help your local library you could volunteer or donate to their organization. Thanks for speaking up for us!!

jennyfreckles said...

Libraries are under threat like never before in UK (actually most public services are!) - and you would cry to see the state of the building that was once a Carnegie Library in Windhill near here. Maybe I'll go photograph it soon, before it disappears forever.

Darla said...

Interesting piece and perspective!!

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Vicki -- a great tribute post to our fabulous libraries. They are citadels of knowledge and opportunity.-- barbara

Kath said...

Well said, Vickie.
As a military brat child, each time we moved the first thing our family did was find the library and get a card. I still remember my first card, all my own, not on my parents' card!!

Tess Kincaid said...

I would be lost without my local library branch. It's part of the award winning Columbus Metropolitan Library system, but even they have lost funding in recent years and had to cut hours and employees.

dannie said...

I can still remember the way the library smelled when I was a litttle girl. I thought it was so wonderful that we could borrow books for two weeks at a time and loved the time I spent with my mom deciding which book to take home. As a teen my first job was as a library page and eventually I was incharge of the one room "branch" in the summers when I was home from college. That experience helped me get a job at EMU's library as a freshman and I even loved breaking the ice as the first person up the hill early in the morning to open.The library is the first place I go when planning a move and all my kids went to the library before they were a year old. Now I take great pleasure in taking my grans to the library and teaching them what a wonderful rsource the library can be. Cutting the funds is such a mistake, it sends such a negative message to our young people.