I love libraries. They are truly egalitarian spaces that are open to everyone and enables anyone free access to information, be it in the form of books, newspapers, magazines, or the internet. I have never met a librarian who did not seem genuinely pleased to be asked to help me find out something or seek out a resource. They are welcoming spaces. The Peterborough Town Library in New Hampshire, established in 1833, is reported to be the first documented free, public library in the world, though claims of being the ‘first’ for anything are always ripe for challenge.
One thing to note is that the modern library is far more than a repository for books. It also provides classes, workshops, internet access, resume and tax help, and serves as a meeting space for community events, as community gathering places, and so forth
“In a library, no one is asked to pay anything simply to sit. For those with few resources besides time, this is a godsend. Libraries are unofficial playgrounds for low-income families on rainy days, homeless shelters in cold months, reprieves from broken homes for grade-school-age children. They are the last bastions of quiet and calm where nothing is asked of one but to exist. Many arguments have been made about how the library is an outdated institution offering outdated services—that in the 21st century, how-to books on building sheds and daily newspaper copies are obsolete and the funding used for libraries ought to be reallocated to other programs. I can only assume that those who make such arguments are people who have always been comfortable with the expenditures it takes to move through the world, whose presence has never been questioned. For those people, libraries can be about books. But not everyone has the luxury of seeing past the space.”
I was pleased to read that rather than being a place that only older people use, it is the younger generation that frequent them the most.
As American generations go, millennials love the public library most of all. A Pew Research Center analysis released in 2017 showed millennials use public libraries more than other age groups.
Pelayo-Lozada said this love affair is likely due to the fact that millennials as a generation were entering adulthood “during a recession and through multiple life-changing world events.”
“Millennials understand the importance of free and equitable access to information as well as the need to support those institutions that provide it,” she said. “From a practical standpoint, as pay increases do not match living expense increases, access to the public library allows millennials to enjoy culture and participate in education and learning at no cost, helping to alleviate some of the financial pressures they may be experiencing.”
Many libraries have, as part of their mission to expand access, stopped charging late fees for materials.
Along with public schools, public libraries are a bedrock of a free and democratic society. So it was concerning that there have been recent assaults on both those institutions, especially from those people who are angered by the fact that they allow people, including younger people, access to all manner of diverse materials. This has aroused the ire of those members of the community who feel that these institutions are ‘corrupting’ the minds of children by providing them access to materials that some adults do not approve of, especially of course, materials relating to gender and sexuality. These groups seek to privatize these institutions by cutting off public funding, thinking that this will give conservative voices greater control over what is available.
These people are the minority but they are loud and angry and such people tend to get media attention. It. will be up to the silent members of each community to step up and defend public libraries from these assaults.