Monday, March 8, 2010

Bookless Libraries

Bookless Libraries


Several years ago, as a single parent with a young child, I became ill. I couldn't work. I used up all my sick leave. I stopped getting the pay cheques I'd taken for granted for many years.


Because Australia has a generous social welfare system, we had food on the table and a roof overhead. But there was no money for luxuries. No money for books.


NO MONEY FOR BOOKS. Even today, I get a shiver just typing those words. Like many who love to read, I was used to buying books whenever I wanted. I especially enjoyed buying great books for my son.


Luckily, we lived close enough to a public library that we could afford the transport cost. It became a treat in what was a very difficult time. We would browse and share and read. We borrowed the maximum books, magazines, audio and video, then lugged our loot home. For the next week, we had our entertainment and learning needs all mapped out.


I do a lot of swallowing and blinking when I think back on those dark days, so I mostly prefer not to talk about them. I dragged the memories into the light of day here though, because I feel compelled to explain again why libraries are so important, to me and to many others.


What is paramount is that libraries are accessible. No matter how well-off you are, you can go into your local library and have instant access to a range of material. Like I did, you can borrow books, books that offer escape from insoluble problems, books that entertain or inform, books that become friends when you need them most. When you're a mother with no money, libraries mean you can give your child gifts (for a week or so) that don't cost anything, but bring delighted smiles just the same. For some of us, those whose lives are restricted in some way, library staff offer the only friendly smiles and chat we see all week. Haven indeed.


Still, I guess it would be cheaper to run libraries without books. And the patrons would disappear, so you could cut down on staff. No books to replace. No new books to buy. Easier to clean for sure - no more dusting and re-organizing. Why, you could tile the rooms and just hose them out! It would no doubt make the bureaucrats rub their hands and smile. 


But then what happens to mums like me, who need books for themselves and their kids? What would happen to Mr Perkins, who pushes his walker to the library every day to read the papers and chat to the staff? How about Ellie, who is teaching herself principles of design through reference books? And Tran, who does his homework at the library because it's so noisy at home? And Dotty, who can't afford to buy the large print books but loves to borrow them?  Multiply by the thousands, no millions of people who need library access, and who need a library with books, not just computers. 


What about them, Mr Bureaucrat? Bookless libraries? Bah!


(This post is a follow-up to the views I expressed last month in Libraries Need Books AND Computers. On March 8 in the USA, we begin the Share a Story-Shape a Future Blog Tour. Find out more at The Book Chook.)

34 comments:

  1. http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Latest post: Bookless Libraries. Why I feel desperate when I hear of library cutbacks and closures. A Book Chook rant!

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  2. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Latest post: Bookless Libraries. Why I feel desperate when I hear of library cutbacks and closures. ...

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  3. It is a scary issue: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss I'm reading: Bookless Libraries

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  4. Book Chook08 March, 2010

    It IS scary, Sandra, to me too. I was hoping my worry about the situation wouldn't come across as melodramatic, but it is hard to stay calm about such a vitally important lifeline as libraries.

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  5. Kelly Burstow08 March, 2010

    You are such a Modern Milly! I love the ToonDoo site. :D
    WE NEED LIBRARIES! Although I have a good range of books now, my husband and I had three children while he was a student and I was at home. Not sure how we managed that lol. But like you, I relied on my local library so I could ensure a wide range of reading material for the children.

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  6. You are not alone, I have been in that place where the library was my only solace. We must not let libraries slip away.

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  7. Book Chook08 March, 2010

    I think your kids would like it too, Kelly B!

    Yes, we do. I worry that libraries will slip from our grasp because we don't take notice of their erosion by various governments. School libraries too!

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  8. Book Chook08 March, 2010

    Yes, Kelly T, that's it exactly - solace.

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  9. http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

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  10. Petty Witter08 March, 2010

    A thought inspiring post. Sad to say I don't make nearly as much use of our library as I should. Just a 5 minute walk away, it is clean and fairly well stocked with helpful staff. To be honest I buy more of their ex-stock than I borrow.

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  11. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Latest post: Bookless Libraries. Why I feel desperate when I hear of library cutbacks and closures.

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  12. Chase March08 March, 2010

    I agree. Libraries are a jewel. I use the public library on a weekly basis and I always have material checked out. I would hate to see libraries start to cutback, whittle down or disappear. That would be a travesty.

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  13. Melissa Taylor09 March, 2010

    I'm always so surprised that not everyone feels this way. My librarians are my friends - they know the books I like, that my kids like. I would go broke if I bought all the books I read! I'm with you, Susan, we must keep the library's budgets sacred!

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  14. Dawn Riccardi Morris09 March, 2010

    It is a very scary situation. To take away books is to take away choice. No one resource should stand alone, nor be forced on anyone - especially children!

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  15. Book Chook09 March, 2010

    The throw-out cart! Another great feature of our libraries, Petty Witter! I have bought some real gems there too,

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  16. Book Chook09 March, 2010

    Thanks for your support, Chase!

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  17. Jen Robinson09 March, 2010

    Thanks for making yourself think back on a tough time, Susan, and using the experience to make a case for libraries. I agree - libraries, with books, are essential.

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  18. RT @JensBookP<wbr></wbr>age RT @BookChook http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Book Chook09 March, 2010

    I know what you mean, Melissa. I have actually read where some libraries are throwing books out because they say all books will be electronic and all reading will be on computer.

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  20. Book Chook09 March, 2010

    Choices are vital to us as humans, aren't they, Dawn? Libraries must be preserved with books AND technological media to advantage us all.

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  21. Book Chook09 March, 2010

    It explains my passion, Jen - but my commonsense dictates the case for libraries too. Thanks for your support!

    ReplyDelete
  22. RT @JensBookP<wbr></wbr>age: RT @BookChook http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  23. RT: @JensBookP<wbr></wbr>age: RT @BookChook http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  24. RT @JensBookP<wbr></wbr>age: RT @BookChook http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  25. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  26. RT @JensBookP<wbr></wbr>age: RT @BookChook http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  27. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  28. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: http://bit.ly/d1S8Ss Help me spread the word. Say no to Bookless Libraries and budget cutbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Terry Doherty09 March, 2010

    Oh, Susan ... Thank you for sharing just how personal reading and literacy is to you. Wow! Hose the rooms and wash them out ... too funny! They'd be paying more for that than they would to just keep the library open!! I hope you are finding heartening ideas in Eva's program at the Los Angeles Public Library and Marge Loch-Weuter's article about the Library Loyalty Club.

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  30. Ian Newbold09 March, 2010

    But a library without books would surely be a very noisey place, go against the whole ethos. I think they should stay.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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  31. Elisabeth (YS Princess)12 March, 2010

    Thanks for advocating for libraries!

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  32. Book Chook12 March, 2010

    Both excellent programs, Terry. We have some great programs in Australia, too. But we also have libraries whose budgets have been cut drastically, and school libraries where trained teacher librarians are being replaced by (cheaper) admin staff.

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  33. Book Chook12 March, 2010

    Thanks, Ian!

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  34. Book Chook12 March, 2010

    Thanks, Elisabeth!

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