Dear Ms. Harrop – I enjoyed reading your article in the Friday, June 19, 2015, Daily Freeman Newspaper entitled “Why we still need public libraries.” Thank you for writing about such a important subject. I periodically blog about this issue in one of my blogs. In fact, I discussed this subject just a month ago on a May 20, 2015 post of this blog.
Woodstock, NY, has been debating if/how to modernize our library since about 2007.
Your arguments in favor of public libraries are all relevant as far as they go. However, I feel that you omitted arguments touching on the heart of the most pressing need for continuing their existence.
Libraries are lifelines for the new Struggling Class – a growing group of people experiencing poverty to such an extent that a local library is essential in ways we never before imagined.
For starters, libraries offer clean restrooms. In our community of approximately 10,000 residents (if you count both the full time residents and the weekenders), there are very few public restrooms.
We have a public restroom just up the street from our village green which closes each year on November 30th and does not reopen until April 15th.
Our recently renovated Town Hall has public restrooms.
Family of Woodstock has a public restroom.
And, the Woodstock Free Library has one.
That’s it. The homeless and the struggling poor don’t have the funds to duck into a local cafe and buy a cup of coffee in order to get access to a restroom. They rely on the services offered in their communities. This always includes the restroom at the library.
Libraries offer a place to get in out of the cold, the heat, the wet. They offer an opportunity to sit in a chair and read a newspaper or a magazine. This is important to the many categories of poverty ridden:
terminally ill poor,
The Woodstock Library has computers. When I visit the library they are always being used.
For those without a computer, the library is a lifeline to the world. Nowadays, computers are needed to:
apply for a job
make a medical appointment
apply for benefits such as social security, SNAP, unemployment compensation
find a food pantry
find a soup kitchen
find a bus schedule
This is just the basic list. I’m sure the people using a library computer can give several more reasons.
Many struggling poor and homeless people have smart phones. They often sacrifice much to keep a smart phone but it is an invaluable tool for survival in the 21st century.
Other struggling poor have working computers but can’t afford wifi. Libraries offer wifi for people who don’t have the price of a cup of coffee needed to get the service in a cafe. On any evening in Woodstock, it’s common to see people sitting on the grounds of the library, under the light of the moon, using the public wifi services offered by our Woodstock Library.
However, not all struggling poor people can afford smart phones or computers. For them, the library is their only option.
And, we haven’t even gotten to the books yet. One of the reasons our community has been wrangling over the expansion/update of our library all these years is that we simply don’t have space for the needed books.
And, we haven’t even gotten to the children, either. Our library offers story telling hours throughout the week for the many children in the area whose families use our library. Our children’s room is very popular. It’s every bit as important as the computer area.
We have a public speaking space with a waiting list several months long.
What would we do without our library?
On behalf of the poor, the hungry, and the downtrodden, I thank you for supporting the continuing existence of libraries, Froma Harrop. In my blog, that makes you a Hero for Hunger.
Thank you for reading this blog.
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