Don’t Turn the Page on Public Libraries


Julia DeAngelis, Contributor

Fifty years ago, many people used public libraries to borrow books, do research, and participate in activities with friends. When home computers hit the market, the library was the place for my parents’ generation to get on a desktop and access the burgeoning internet. Now, with a computer in most people’s pocket and ebooks available on a variety of devices, many people are uninterested in using libraries. They argue that libraries are obsolete because research and borrowing books can be done online and that public library funding should be redirected. On the other hand, supporters of libraries consider them vital resources that deserve adequate funding. Even with the ubiquity of the internet, libraries are still necessary public amenities today.

Public libraries are essential to provide books, research materials, and internet access. They loan paper books from their shelves and ebooks from their websites. Young readers can go to libraries to find their next book, get recommendations, and attend events with their parents. Libraries often run programs to inspire a love of reading and learning in children. Additionally, older students can use libraries to learn how to research, evaluate sources, and make citations. They can also get a librarian’s help on school projects. Public libraries encourage everyone to read books and be informed citizens. Another resource that libraries have is computers. With remote learning as the current standard in most public schools, internet access has become a necessity for all families. Public libraries ensure free internet access for students doing homework or attending remote classes. Library computers are also crucial for adults to apply for jobs, register to vote, pay bills, and more. It might seem that libraries are unnecessary in an age of ebooks and online research. Some argue—if people are not visiting public libraries as much anymore, shouldn’t library websites replace buildings? What this idea overlooks is that public libraries are the infrastructure that towns have to provide internet access. As the importance of the internet has grown, so has the need for libraries. If someone does not have stable access to a computer or loses electricity in their home, they can visit their library. Public libraries are essential because they provide books and computers and teach research skills.

In addition to supplying research materials, libraries provide programs and public spaces that are free to use. People of all ages can go to libraries if they can’t be in their home. They are a safe environment for children to stay in the afternoon if their parents work late and a quiet work or study space for people with distractions in their house. Senior citizens who live alone often rely on libraries to connect with their communities. While someone can get wifi and do work at another place such as a coffee shop, libraries don’t require purchases. They are unique in providing many benefits with no financial barrier. Libraries also run activities, classes, and community service programs. I remember regularly visiting my town library in fourth grade to do arts and crafts with my friends. The bean bag chairs and rug with the world map on it invited us in every Wednesday afternoon. That library also houses story nights, writing events, book drives, cooking classes, and ESL tutoring. All for free. The extracurriculars that public libraries run also strengthen the education system because students have more opportunities than just what their school offers. Many schools partner with public libraries and provide library cards to students. While it is true that public libraries take funding from local tax budgets, their additions to the community easily justify the costs. Towns can enjoy many benefits by building a single library and properly funding it. Public libraries are needed because their resources and services are accessible regardless of income.

Although they seem obsolete to some, libraries have many uses and remain an important part of any town. They are necessary for the health of a democracy as free and reliable sources of information. All people should be able to learn their history, keep up with and understand current events, and evaluate sources. An educated and continuously learning population is impossible if information is limited by income. Libraries are the keystone of an educated and involved community.

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