Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Public Libraries Matter It’s time for America to stop starving its libraries of funding :: The Nation

Why Public Libraries Matter
It’s time for America to stop starving its libraries of funding.
The Nation: 6.04.2015  by Katrina vanden Heuve

There are more public libraries in America—some 9,000 central buildings and 7,500 branch locations—than McDonald’s restaurants, making them one of the most ubiquitous institutions in the nation. Far from serving as obsolescent repositories for dead wood, libraries are integral, yet threatened, parts of the American social fabric. Libraries, after all, are truly democratic spaces where all are welcome and where everything inside is available to everyone. Few American institutions strive for “equity of access,” a core principle of the American Library Association, and even fewer pay more than lip service to the idea that services like the Internet are necessary aspects of life that simply must be made available to all members of society. But despite their impact and import—much of it hidden from people of means who can independently (and often expensively) secure for themselves those services provided by the library—America is starving its libraries, cutting off millions of people from the stream of information that, like oxygen, powers the development and basic functions of society.

In response to a 2010 story by Chicago’s Fox affiliate, “Are Libraries Necessary, or a Waste of Tax Money?”, Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library Mary A. Dempsey explained, “There continues to exist in this country a vast digital divide. It exists along lines of race and class and is only bridged consistently and equitably through the free access provided by the Chicago Public Library and all public libraries in this nation. Some 60 percent of the individuals who use public computers a Chicago’s libraries are searching for and applying for jobs.” It might be amusing to quip about musty, 19th-century-era card catalogs and smudgy, analog newspapers racked on giant spindles, but the access to contemporary society that public libraries provide is deadly serious.  READ MORE @

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