Libraries struggling to remain democracy’s hidden treasure

As we get older, there are some things that may be constants in life, but aren’t fully appreciated until we reach a certain age. I, for example, have been going to libraries for nearly my entire life, but I’ve never fully appreciated how essential they can be until I came to college.

Maybe it’s because there’s the chance libraries may become marginalized, like every other establishment of the pre-on-demand era. The rise of e-books and devices like the Nook and the Kindle may also play a role, as more and more people are getting books and other pieces of media and information wherever they are through those portable tablets. Libraries are still a vital, useful and most importantly cost-effective establishment.

Libraries are still important research tools. During my first couple of years at Oswego State, I always laughed at those posters in Penfield explaining why it’s better to use books than online databases when conducting online research. While I have used online services for several projects, there were others where actual books were more sufficient. For example, when working on my term paper for the journalism capstone last year, I had a lot of trouble finding information online. But I was able to find several books in the library that were enormously helpful with writing my paper.

The problem with doing research online is that there is so much misinformation out there. It is especially difficult if you are writing a paper that is issue-based. If you Google “Obama’s health care bill,” you would have to go through page after page to find information on the health care bill that isn’t from a blog or a watchdog site that will manipulate that kind of information for their own agendas. With books, more specifically encyclopedias, this is not a problem. It is easy to find actual, unbiased facts using materials available in libraries. Online information can also be altered at any time, and information in books cannot. They are a constant, and people might not realize how useful they are unless they vanish one day. So to everyone I ever silently doubted for thinking library materials were still useful when conducting research, I apologize and will eat any predetermined amount of crow.

There is a sense of tranquility that also comes with libraries. They are calm, comfortable places to read and study. I live in The Village, so I have a room all to myself. But I still find myself going to the library to read and do work because there is something in the atmosphere there that makes it easier for me to concentrate. It was the same way when I was in high school. But even my high school didn’t have the ridiculously comfortable chairs that Penfield has.

But the biggest reason I like libraries so much is the reason libraries have been around for thousands of years: people love to read. For the reasonable price of zero dollars and zero cents, you can get just about any book, movie or CD you can think of. For someone like me who is constantly reading books, watching movies and listening to music, libraries are invaluable. For everyone who complained about Netflix jacking up their prices this year, you can go to your local library and get movies for (I cannot stress this enough) free. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, there is a good chance your library is part of a system of libraries, and you can get any book, movie or album sent to your library as long as one other library has it. It really is amazing how people forget that libraries provide all of these things for free.

But I feel that going on about the low cost of libraries somehow trivializes them. Libraries are an essential part of civilized society. It is saddening that libraries in small towns are facing severe financial trouble. I urge everyone to not let take their local libraries for granted. Because if they do vanish, they will not be easily replaced.

2 thoughts on “Libraries struggling to remain democracy’s hidden treasure

  1. Great post, and just what the world needs to hear about libraries. That they matter to the patrons, and it’s not just the librarians (like me!) who think they matter. We change lives.
    For the better. And we provide a measure of a community’s social responsibility, we show that our community cares about equity, and all of the human rights. Thank you Aaron. May your voice be heard far and wide.

  2. Wonderful article Aaron…well said…I guess all the books I read to you as a very young child planted a seed….every parent should realize how important books are…

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