23 Jun 2010

Ode to the Library

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.  ~Edward P. Morgan

It is one of my favorite places to go before a long weekend or when I need a mental vacation.  A fixed location, it has the ability to transport you to any place and time, or places that don’t actually exist.  If you think about it, the concept of a public library is amazing: the ability to read just about any book ever published, plus journals, newspapers and magazines, watch movies, TV shows and listen to music, all for free.

Online, the DC Public Library gives cardholders the ability to have any book sent to your neighborhood outpost, to download many to an e-reader or to listen to an audiobook.  They even have an app.  Inside, librarians lead story time for little ones, game night for teens and book club for adults.  It’s where you go for everything from computer classes to an egg hunt at Easter. Today, our neighborhood libraries also have computers and internet access for people who might not otherwise have it. They offer income tax assistance, have business centers, offer homework help and have that gem of all gems: librarians that help navigate it all.

Public libraries are one of our hard working city services and, like many other services, are suffering from reduced budgets.  Over the last year, the Northeast and Southeast libraries have reduced their hours, not opening until 1pm two days a week and not at all on Sundays.  Recently, I found that some of the friendly faces at Northeast Library won’t be there any longer — either laid off or transferred.  At a time when economic circumstances mean more people are turning to our libraries for their services and professional help, libraries are having to reduce service and staff, according to a recent study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and American Library Association.

If you’re like me and a lover of the library, there are things you can do to help support these neighborhood institutions: volunteer, become a Friend of the Library, shop at the MLK Library store or make a tax-deductible donation.  Election season is here, so its a good time to ask candidates what they think about the future of our libraries.

In the meantime, as P.J. O’Rourke once said, “always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”


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One response to “Ode to the Library”

  1. ET says:

    As a librarian I second every word of this post.

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