In the News
By Marc S. Gluck
March 11, 2015
My fellow citizens, I hope you can join me in entreating our state and local elected officials to increase their support of one of our most valuable democratic institutions, our public libraries.
Our public libraries serve all segments of our population and are more important now than ever to our national economy and sense of well-being.
They increasingly are being called upon to assist and serve ever greater numbers of people who require free computer access (including wireless connections). They provide free entertainment access in the form of books, recorded books on compact disc and in MP3 format, magazines, DVDs and, increasingly, free downloadable movies, streaming audio, and online books and magazines.
This diversity of services is nothing new for our nation's public libraries.
From the time Benjamin Franklin helped create the first free lending library in America, through the Great Depression and more recently the Great Recession, and through today, our libraries have been the primary portal to educational self-enhancement and recreational enjoyment for millions of people.
The same library branches and outreach services that helped our great-grandparents and succeeding generations learn English also provided free access to great books and the ideas contained therein and encouraged their children and grandchildren to read to improve themselves. They are still doing that very same thing today.
It is quite sad, though, that our elected officials too often see public libraries as the poor stepchildren of their government agencies.
It is also quite ironic that the only nonemergency government agency routinely open on evenings and weekends is also one of the first to have its budgets reduced, thus often forcing reductions of services, hours, materials, staff, or even a complete closing.
Public libraries continue to serve all who wish to use them, regardless of their economic level, educational attainment, mental capacity or even their ability to understand English.
Indeed, it is our public libraries that are one of the primary institutions at the forefront of helping nonnative English speakers improve their language skills; and, of course, of assisting others to learn other languages, too.
It is exceptional that our public libraries were the one constant institution of our society that has maintained our best ideals throughout history.
They served nobly as the "street academies" for past and present generations of immigrants to this nation, who routinely have found them a place to learn and better themselves — all at little or no cost.
Public libraries increasingly have become de facto community centers for the areas that they serve, offering free meeting room space and programming for all ages and interests.
Most libraries routinely offer free programs on learning computer skills, job searching, basic consumer skills and more. They also have become close to (and in some cases already are) 24/7 sites for information — thoroughly vetted by professional staff — and entertainment; again at no charge.
Our public libraries routinely do more good things with less money than any other government agency or private company.
As Lincoln once stated, "a friend is someone who brings me a book (today one would add website) that I haven't read."
If the libraries' funding were entirely eliminated, each resident's property tax would be diminished by only pennies.
It is especially interesting to realize that every democratic nation in the world has a thriving set of public libraries. No autocratic one does.
Please let our government representatives know that our nation's public libraries are at least equally deserving of government assistance at this critical time as every other government agency worthy of such funding.
Our local and state officials routinely subsidize certain private and public agencies for the "greater good" of our community. Surely our public libraries deserve at least the same consideration and compensation; especially since they serve everyone, not just segments of our community, equally well.
Marc S. Gluck has been the manager of the Edgewater Community Library since 1994 and will be retiring on May 1. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It's no mystery.
It's a lot of them.
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