In Praise of the Public Library

14 May

My class and I walked to the public library today to hear two Canadian authors talk about the importance of reading and writing and promote their latest books. As we walked back I thought a bit about the whole concept of public libraries and it made me a little sad at how much our civic values have shifted.

I imagined trying to create something like a public library today.  I think you’d get laughed at, saying you wanted to create a building where people could go and borrow books at no cost. Even better is the idea that the public purse buys the books in the first place. They’re not provided by a corporate donor who has their name plastered on the outside. The library belongs to all of us. Amazing!

Of course, the public library is a long standing institution, so we don’t question it, but it harkens back to a time when we believed in taking care of each other much more than we seem to today. And it’s hard to think of something, other than schools, that’s done more to promote literacy than the public library, to say nothing for it’s role in promoting a myriad of other good works.

As we phase away from paper books and towards e-books I’m not sure what the role of the public library will be, but I’m very glad that they exist and have existed. Our societies would be much worse without them.

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