Public Libraries

Public libraries--revered by most, utilized in one form or another by many, and always, always underfunded.

The irony is that, when the services of public libraries are most needed, such as during the current economic crisis, is when funds, staffing, and hours are most severely curtailed.

Across the country, circulation and walk-in traffic are up significantly. People who used to mainly buy their books are turning to the public library as a way to meet a reading fix while saving money. Others are using the public library computers for job searching and e-mail access. Some public libraries offer resume critique services, computer skills courses, tax preparation assistance, and so on.

Where I live (Lincoln, Nebraska), the two smallest public library branches are probably going to (finally) be eliminated. I say "finally" because the idea of closing them is raised every few years, only to be stopped by an outcry from the local neighborhoods. This time, I don't think even a public outcry can save these two small public libraries.

And, selfishly, I'm sad. One of the locations is where I usually take my daughter. We go for storytime and because the building is small enough that I can see her in the children's section while I'm browsing the fiction paperbacks racks. The selection is small, yes, so not the place to go with a specific title in mind, but I also like to "stumble across" books and check out books I wouldn't normally choose to purchase.

Fiscally responsible to close the two branches? Definitely. A huge loss for the affected neighborhoods and everyone in Lincoln in terms of the general charm of having smaller locations? Most definitely.


Molly said…
Your post is sadly true. Public libraries serve such a valuable function in today's society. I know that I have used the library more these past 5 years than I ever did in the 15 years prior. It grieves me that local branches must close due to financial considerations. There is most definitely a need.

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