Why Libraries are Still Essential in Modern Life
If you’ve ever seen Parks and Rec, you’ll know the main cast of characters are an array of people who have very different views on the just about everything. One thing they are all equally opposed to: libraries. They sneer whenever libraries are mentioned, and act as though they are being tortured when forced to enter one.
This hate goes beyond just a comedic TV show though. A couple of years ago, Forbes published an article called “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” This article — which thankfully, was removed by Forbes (but remains forever archived) — showcases how little people seem to think, or care, about libraries.
Maybe it’s because they smell weird and are too quiet. Maybe it’s because the rise of technology has seemed to diminish their usefulness. Or maybe it’s because libraries (and the postal service) are public utilities paid for by taxes, that many Americans decry as “socialist.”
While those things might be half-truths, they definitely don’t tell the whole story. So, like a good book, let’s dive right in and figure out where those misconceptions fall short. And why, as you’ll see, libraries are still an essential service.
1. Libraries are physical spaces you can truly just exist.
Libraries, along with parks, are a few of the last truly public places that exist — a “third place”. They are buildings where you can spend hours without the expectation of buying anything.
When I lived in New York, I often wasted away my afternoons writing screenplays in the blissful silence of the New York Public Libraries — the Rose Reading Room and the Jefferson Market Library being my favorite spots. I wasn’t expected to buy a drink (or a second or third), no one asked me to leave when it got full, and I never had to worry about finding an outlet as they were readily available. The Wi-Fi was fast and free; the space was calming and peaceful — filled with students, freelancers, and others quietly working or reading by themselves.