Greenwich Free Library
The Unlikely Institution
Our own statistics, posted farther down the newsletter, show that people in our community are coming for books, coming for computers, coming for programs, coming for classes and movies and meetings etc. etc. We must be doing something right because the people keep coming.
I belong to the Association of Rural and Small Libraries and am regularly in communication with librarians in towns with populations under 500 - some under 100. I was just down in New York City and stopped in to get my New York Public Library card (You can get one too!) That big-time library was hopping ! No matter the location, size, diversity, wealth or poverty of the community, libraries provide needed resources and services and are busy, beloved places. They are also unique.
Anyone can come to the library and, with only the most minimal paperwork, get a card and take things home. Because libraries love to cooperate, you can just as easily take things home from all the other members of our system. We even have a way to get them to your most convenient pickup point. Still not finding what you need? We will send across the country for it. Lousy or no internet? Come use our computers or the WiFi (It's open and available 24/7) Home with small children? Story time. Seeking health information, help with hobbies, skills and inspiration for your small business? Clubs, meetings, workshops, movies etc., etc. And what do we charge per transaction? Mostly, nothing.
Having been a library user my whole life, it's easy to forget how special libraries are. An article I read recently about a talk by Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People, was a great reminder of the important role libraries play in "social infrastructure"; those aspects of the public sphere that are paid for by the community and made available to everyone for free. Klinenberg also points out how unlikely it would be for our country to create them today.
For proof of this assertion, you need only look to the Governor's proposed NY State Budget that cuts both basic support and construction funding for libraries, and the President's Federal Budget that completely eliminates the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These days, taking money from one of the most used and loved institutions in our country is a bi-partisan activity. Fortunately for libraries, that most (small d ) democratic institution, we the people can let our representatives know how much we value our libraries and expect them to be supported.
These days, libraries can't rest on our laurels. We are required to continually improve our services and prove our worth. Fortunately, we love to do the former and can provide evidence for the latter. Please take a few minutes to follow the links below, contact your representatives and let them know that you are a library lover who votes.
Great communities deserve great libraries and libraries are places we create together.
ps If you'd like to hear more from Eric Kleinenberg, here's an interesting clip from an interview he did at the Toronto Public library.