THE LIBRARY

When was the last time you visited a public library?

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Stairway of our library, looking up. Photo source: WBDG

Fifteen years ago, ours was packed to the gills and falling apart. For every new book purchased, one had to be discarded because the storage area was full.

People fought for years over whether to build a new library. No one reads. Waste of taxpayer’s money. The Internet will make libraries obsolete. Boondoggle.

Finally, voters approved a bond. A new library was completed in 2002.

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Photo source: WBDG

People line up at the door every morning before it opens. Kids fill the teen and children’s wings after school, on weekends and during vacations. The 100 computers are in constant use.

The Internet has made libraries better. Librarians spend less time doing chores and more time helping people.

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Poetry reading by Billy Collins at the Eugene Public Library. Photo source: Poetry Loft

The only braille printer in town is at the library.

Book groups can check out sets of books.

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There are DVDs, puppets, music CDs, community classes, concerts, resources for job hunters, electronically searchable microfiche, tax forms. The library provides online access to to e-books, audiobooks, consumer reports, magazines, homework help, genealogy websites. It puts on over 1000 programs a year.

Bummed out about the state of human kind?

Support the library.

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The library stairs, looking down. Photo credit: Eckert Photography

How is your library doing? 

31 comments

  • This is very encouraging to read, there’s hope for libraries yet. Here in Singapore libraries are doing well, always have and i hope always will. Children here are encouraged from the earliest age to read and most have a genuine liking for traditional books.
    Thank you, JB, for sharing this.
    My best to you
    john

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    • Not surprised about encouragement to read in Singapore. Visited a year ago and was impressed by how focused on and supportive of education Singaporeans are. Next visit might have to check out the libraries.

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  • Our community went through the very same thing about a decade ago. The old library was too limited, both in space and content. A new one was in order, but surprisingly, many in the community balked at the idea. Luckily, the deal went through, and we now have a gorgeous new library with lots of space. It’s used for so many events, I can’t imagine why people resisted. The library has always been–and will always be–one of my favorite places to visit.

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  • Libraries and bookstores, my favorite places in the world. I love holding an actual book in my hands. I think libraries have adapted well to the Internet. They’re the gateway to a ton of online resources that I wouldn’t normally have access to. I also think bookstores can continue exist if the right approach is taken. I don’t think physical books will ever be obsolete, there are too many people who enjoy the experience of having the real thing – like me!

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    • I agree. People love books. Many bookstores that embrace technology the way libraries have, are doing well. They have be nimble though. We’re down to about six or seven in our town.

      Liked by 1 person

  • This makes me so happy! I used to take my kids when they were little and it was like going to the candy store. They wanted to check out endless number of books. Our library is also doing very well and always has a line. I am glad the purchase of my Kindle has not been responsible for any fall out of libraries. Phew!

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    • No way. I download books from the library website onto a Kindle. They encourage it. Glad to hear your library is flourishing.

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  • My local library is within walking distance in the village/suburb (near good cafes too!) but your post has been a timely reminder not to neglect it. It’s so easy in our hectic lives, to forget what the municipal library offers us – a few moments for quiet reading and reflection. So important,

    Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I don’t get to my public library as often as I should – it’s a great place to go for quiet to work and grade papers – a big table to spread out upon and plenty of light. My school librarian is my best friend – helps me find good books to read and recommend to kids and helps me find resources to use in class. Thank you for the reminder – cheaper than buying books and I have to take them back!

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  • Our librarians too – they are like Amazon.com in person. “Other books you might like ….” Right on taking them back. Maybe we can get carbon credits for helping reduce demand for trees.

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  • I have loved public and school libraries since I could read. They offer so much more than books, are more like gatekeepers into other worlds. Ours now have cafes in them, and allow food and hot drinks (some librarians would turn in their graves!). Bless libraries.Thanks for this post.

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    • Imagine, librarians catching on to the idea that some of us concentrate better when we chew or sip. Gatekeepers is a good word for libraries today.

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  • That is one beautiful Library Julia! And so worth the wait. Sad to say that I haven’t been to a library in quite some time. I wish I had the time to peruse through the isles of books like I used to do. No. With all the demands on my time these days, I am extremely grateful for my electronic device. By the way, I love how you can change out the picture in your heading. Changes the mood with each post. Very dramatic! 🙂

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    • I love electronic access too. The library supplies e-books and audio books that can be downloaded from home. Pretty nifty. Still, you’re right, there’s nothing like wandering the shelves. I’m on the library board, and so wander through the place all the time, but probably wouldn’t be there as often otherwise.

      Yes — WordPress kindly offers the option of featuring images. It’s fun to play with.

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  • I live in West Hollywood, where the city completed a major renovation of the public library just over a year ago. It’s a vibrant place with a used bookstore, meeting rooms, media kiosks, etc. and overlooks the Pacific Design Center. I must admit, however, that I’ve slowly been enslaved by my Kindle over the last year. I really need to explore the electronic options at the library! Great post, Julia.

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    • E-books are grand, and doubly cool to get them free from the library.

      Sounds like your “new” library is fantastic. Lucky community.

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  • Thank you.
    I will give 2 perspectives here: 1) as a professional librarian career-wise for past few decades
    2) as a library user/non-user/citizen

    1) Public library directors across North America work very hard with their municipalities to explain the value of libraries and how they adapt with technology without trying to blow apart the taxpayers’ money. People really need to understand that their library card gives them free access to licensed digital content online (specialized research databases), DVDs, etc. which can cost hundreds of thousands, if not also over 1 million (if it’s a big city) dollars per year or every 2 years. Producing quality info. costs publishers money,,….
    The Free Internet has some great info., but real researched and well written info. means user has to pay money or the library buys access for registered library card holders.

    My career has been in government, engineering and law libraries. I have never worked in a public library that serves families and children, but the issues still are same even with niche well-educated adult users in various professions.

    2) I regret that I haven’t used my own public library for the past few years….they charge $15,00 annual user free. I understand why they do that.. anyway I have a pile of bought books at home that I’ve been ploughing slowly through. I have to reduce my own personal library…it’s part of my lifelong decluttering plan .:D However in a few years, I think the library director is working to waive that fee.

    There is real excitement for the design of the new Central downtown library in our city. A architectural centrepiece…which won’t be completed until 3 years later. We had a major river flood last year which flooded the basement of the library.

    Wow, jbw that poetry reading has great attendance! I know Toronto and VAncovuer have had some savvy public events also.

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    • Thank you Jean! I might have to do another post on reading, and do some research, too. Let me know what you find. I didn’t know you were a librarian! This is a great perspective. We might have to rethink how we define reading since a lot of reading going on now is shorter articles, but it’s interesting to learn that young people say they are reading more books than older people say they are.

      Our library Foundation doesn’t even have the word “books” in it’s mission statement. Libraries are for helping people access information and gain knowledge, or something like that. The library is full, but mostly with people who don’t have access to computers, or decent internet service at home.

      Yes the readings at the library by poets and authors are usually jammed with people. It amazes me, because I tend to hang out in my private little world a lot, and on the rare occasions I attend a public event like that it makes me realize that a lot of people care a lot about what’s going on in the world. It is heartening.

      Looking forward to learning more about the new, in-the-works library in your city.

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  • “We might have to rethink how we define reading since a lot of reading going on now is shorter articles, but it’s interesting to learn that young people say they are reading more books than older people say they are.”

    Shorter articles can force a writer to write quality, succinct content. However there are some subjects that do require more expository style beyond ie. 500-800 words. I think of the essays written by some great English literature giants and compare against today..

    Let me know when /if you blog something about reading. I’m a big believer that reading several times a week, extended articles and books, expands a person’s vocabulary, awareness of correct grammar and spelling, and comprehension on subjects written with more complex sentence structures. I began life not knowing any English until kindergarten so I had to jumpstart my own fluency.

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