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Friday, May 17, 2013

A World Without Libraries

The other morning I had a really great class visit with a group of about 55 smart, funny third-graders. Their teacher had told me on the phone when we scheduled the visit that they were studying "A World Without Libraries" in school, which I thought was interesting, and a little strange. I didn't have time during our phone call to have her clarify what that meant, so I intended to get more information about it when they came to the library.

The kids arrived a couple of weeks later, bright-eyed and excited to be at the library (or just excited about being temporarily outside of school) and sat down at the tables. I gave my usual welcoming spiel and tried to warm up the kids to talking about libraries.

One of the questions I asked (leading up to talking about the number of library branches in Brooklyn): 

Me: "So, what city do we live in?"

Kids: "New York!"

Me: "Yes, but more specifically, we live in the city of Brooklyn, right?"

Kid: "No, Brooklyn is a BOROUGH!"

Dang. Tough crowd.

We then chatted about their favorite books and library cards and databases and all the other great stuff kids can use at the library. When the conversation portion of the visit was winding down, I asked the kids to explain to me exactly why they were studying  "A World Without Libraries" and what that kind of world would mean to them.

How I Picture NYC Without Libraries

Some of their responses:

"People would not be as smart."

"I would stop reading as many books because I can't afford to buy them."

"It would be bad for the environment because we'd use more trees

for more books and then the animals who live in trees would have
to go somewhere else."

"It would be bad for the economy. People would lose their jobs." 

DANG. Smart crowd. 

My favorite response, though, was this:

"People in book stores would get rich."

Hmmm. Interesting logic!

Anyway, the whole conversation left me feeling hopeful about the future of libraries, because if kids are the ones understanding that libraries have a necessary place in society, we just might not be doomed after all. 

Speaking of understanding libraries (or not)...

In case you missed it, I recently wrote a response on the Book Riot site to a Huffington Post article by Michael Rosenblum. He basically asserts that libraries aren't needed anymore, everything on the internet is free and all information is Google-able, and other such fallacies, so I tried to refute him firmly and politely. (My piece "A Librarian's Response to 'What's a Library?'" also got picked up by the Huffington Post, so that was fun.) Check them out if you have time and let your blood boil.

Truthfully, there are a lot more things I wish I could have written in my article, a lot more I could have said about the transformative power of libraries and everything they offer. But there's only so much time and space in which one has to write, so I'm at least glad that the conversation has started and that it is being continued eloquently by other librarians and library supporters.

In addition to THAT, I'm going to remind you that if you live in NYC, you can and should sign the library petition for your borough - I compiled all three of them here. Articles and anecdotes are great for spreading the word about the power of libraries, but unfortunately a lot of the dirty work is done behind closed doors at City Hall. These petitions let us citizens have a voice in that process. (If you don't live in NYC, I encourage you to seek out opportunities for library advocacy in your own communities. They are out there!) 

And with that, I am off from work until after Memorial Day. Be good to each other, my friends, and be good to your libraries!


  1. Amen to everything you've said. And thank you SO much for your response Rosenblums article in the Huffinton Post.

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