Why We Still Need Libraries
Public servants such as teachers and librarians are the unsung heroes of our society. They make due with shrinking budgets and yet still try to fulfill the needs of their community members. What do they get in return? Too often it's complaints and disrespect. Not many people think we need libraries, believing that the Internet provides all the information we can ever want and need without a librarian's help. Some people even believe that it isn't hard work or that it isn't a real profession, or that a degree in information and library science is worth about as much as a B.A. in English (I'm not slamming English majors, just referencing Avenue Q). Well they're wrong.
Libraries are much more than collections of physical knowledge in the form of books. They also house other forms of media such as CDs, DVDs, and MP3s. Contrary to popular belief, most libraries who can afford to keep up with the times can lend you almost anything you are looking to borrow (in fact, it's most likely the case that much of the older materials have been thrown out or sold off and you may not find them). That is not to say that books are becoming antiquated, of course. Information is packaged in many forms, but you shouldn't count out the written word just yet. Sometimes there is just no substitute for a solid, physical book with pages to turn. After all, the electronics of e-books are equally as vulnerable as paper.
In addition to the lending of information and media products, a library is also a community center where people can gather together for different activities and seminars. The first thing that may come to mind at the mention of library programs is the summer reading program, but today's libraries offer so much more than that. They staff librarians with different specialties and interests to serve all age groups. From video game tournaments to anime nights to science and robotics clubs, there is almost no limit to what can be done. It all depends on the community, its resources, and the people who make the decisions.
Let's not forget the extracurricular aspect of libraries. Public libraries work closely in conjunction with their local schools. Most students are sent there to do homework using resources not found in their school libraries, usually tasked with finding at least three sources that aren't web sites. However, the public library is also a vital haven for those who are home-schooled or are taking distance courses. In addition, a library contains resources on almost any sort of topic you wish to learn about that isn't taught in school. That in no way should be taken to mean that our schools are becoming increasingly insufficient; in the nine months that make up the school year, you can only learn so much, and every year that passes guarantees that there is more to learn (for instance, history and current events).
Whether or not you visit your local library regularly, think about what it means to you. It will change with time, both for you as a patron and for the library as an entity trying to stay relevant in this world. If there was something wrong with your computer, you could use one at the library for about an hour. Maybe you want to have kids someday and take them there. At a public library, there is always something for everyone, and that's not about to change.
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