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Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
—Groucho Marx

All over America, local governments are closing public libraries.  Or privatizing them.  There was a time -- not too long ago -- when there existed the idea that governments and libraries in partnership created sustainable communities.  Once, a town could not boast of itself as being worthy of a spot on the map unless it had a public school system and a public library.  What has happened that this partnership is itself, non-sustainable?  Is it the fault of our libraries?  Or of our government?

Here in Florida, a state universtity asks, "Why Do Libraries Close?" and provides answers in this study.

Politicians have washed their hands.  In the eyes of the conservatives, libraries can go by the wayside no harm done in the name of lowering taxes.  According to them, the Internet has made libraries obsolete.  Anything you -- especially young people -- may want to read is online, they say.  Is that so?

Please turn the page.

Anyone who has been a Follower of Readers and Book Lovers knows that "book lover" is not a pejorative term, that "book lover" is a strong self-identifier, that "book lover" is an emotional component of our very beings.  So much so, that we harbor strong feelings about whether a "book lover" can ever really be a "Kindle lover," for instance.

The Internet, to the book indifferent, is good enough for those of us plagued by the reading habit.  I have a question for those politicians: How many book lovers has the Internet produced?

The library of my youth was a converted Florida pine house.  Its white-painted clapboard sides, sash windows, and small veranda at the front door did not remotely resemble a government building.  Yet, it was sustained by my parents' taxes, two among a community of about 2,500 who assessed themselves so that a skinny child with a reading habit could get a fix all day Saturday.  I spent hours of my dyspeptic teen-aged years hiding from my elders and my peers among the admittedly musty shelves that contained at most about one book per person in our little town.  In my memory, the library was virtually deserted except for me and the lone librarian.  I curled in wicker chairs and read The New Yorker; I browsed shelves of fiction until I found War and Peace; I scanned non-fiction and settled on Profiles in Courage; I even went to work part time, shelving books, which probably proves I was not the only patron.  To me, if I couldn't be on the water, being in the library was bliss, its books were my companions, my refuge and solace.  Only gnawing hunger could make me put my book down and walk back up the hill to home, where, after a hearty sandwich, I was likely to curl up with another book.

What has gone wrong?  How did it happen that America is losing its public libraries?  It may have started when the library scientists shifted their institutions from having "patrons" to having "customers' or "clients."  It may have happened when Grover Norquist got Republicans to make cutting taxes their theology.  It may be technology is to blame, but I find that hard to believe; in fact, perhaps it will be their savior.  [See R&BLers: The Digital Republic of Letters Re-Envisioned in The Digital Library of America]

What I do believe is that technology will never produce book lovers.  Books and the public's free access to them will.  Free public libraries, abodes of peace and liberty, are the fertile ground from which book lovers grow.  They are the structures that symbolize best the Great Experiment that is America.  If they are to die, then so will our country as we know it and as the Founders intended it.

Support your local public library.  It is a political act.  Read a book.  It is a political act.  Become a book lover.  It is a political act.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 3:00 PM Science, Math, and Statistics Books plf515
SUN 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
MON 8:00 AM And the Winner Is. . . 88kathy
MON 8:00 PM My Favorite Books & Authors billssha
TUE 8:00 AM Calvacade of Words aravir
TUE Noon (bi-weekly) The Mad Logophile Purple Priestess
TUE 8:00 PM Readers & Book Lovers Newsletter Limelite
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
WED 8:00 PM Bookflurries: Bookchat cfk
THU 2:00 PM (bi-weekly) eReaders & Book Lovers Club Limelite
THU 8:00PM Write On! SensibleShoes
FRI 9:00 AM Books That Changed My Life etbnc, aravir
FRI NOON Pros and Contests Alexi Hershey
FRI 9:00 PM (every 3rd week) A Book, Its Movie, and a Glass of Wine mdmslle
SAT 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid
Intermittent Diaries
SUN ? Justice, Not Charity Runaway Rose, allie123
NOTE:  Though not part of R&BLers Weekly Magazine Series, please look for "Indigo Kalliope: Poems From the Left" by various authors republished here every WED NOON by aravir.

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Other that that, nothing's happening.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Become One of Our Editors (21+ / 0-)

    Sign up to register your series idea in the comment thread, or message me and let's talk about getting your series published regularly in the Weekly Magazine.

    Mystery lover wanted.
    Kindle/Nook enthusiast wanted.
    Graphic books afficianado wanted.
    Kids books and YA fans wanted.

    Apply below!

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Mon May 23, 2011 at 09:13:13 AM PDT

  •  nothing like the smell of an old book, (12+ / 0-)

    which you can often find at library sales.  Some of my best books were retired from libraries.

    "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau -6.38, -4.15

    by James Allen on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:02:03 PM PDT

  •  Books aren't obsolete (11+ / 0-)

    People who want to eliminate public libraries are likely the same people that want to eliminate public schools. Literacy is necessary for a democracy and the two institutions that help create a literate population are being attacked by people, who may not be book burners themselves, are certainly aligned with them.

    A well-made book is not obsolete and will last centuries longer than an eBook on a Kindle or Nook.

    Electronic forms have their advantages, but preservation is not one of them.

    Books have also a lower hurdle to access. With an eBook reader, a person needs money for the reader and money to charge the reader. With a book, what is needed is a light source (the sun) and a person who can read.

    The attacks on public libraries is a stealth means to control people by keeping them illiterate and ill-informed.

  •  When my children were small (9+ / 0-)

    our little library had story hour and had speakers come for the mothers.  

    The children had fun at the library.

    In the summer, there were reading clubs and my children got stars for books read.  There was a party on the last day.  I drove one of the cars one year to go to a fair where each child got one ride.

    One year, my son won a watermelon just in time for his birthday party by being the child who could spit a seed the farthest.  He was so tickled.

    The library makes a real effort to get children interested in stories and books.

    They used to have a small house inside the library, though that has now been replaced with a gazebo where a child can sit on mats and read.

    and as James said above, my library has books for sale cheap...and computers to use for research.

    Libraries gone?  Privatized so I could not have afforded to go?

    The loss would be irreparable.

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:51:34 PM PDT

    •  Privatize? Consolidate? Reduce hours? (7+ / 0-)

      Where are our priorities? Not that long ago, nobody would pretend to call his neighborhood a permanent settlement without at least some kind of library within walking distance. Whether it was a rack of shared books and the combined post office and bait shop, or a grand edifice built with happy donations, people needed a place to share books and ideas.

      Where I grew up, the free library was a couple blocks away from the university's extension service. The concentration of shops had long moved away from this neighborhood, town hall was moved to a nondescript office block further out, and the local courthouse was moved to a different town altogether. But, those blocks still marked the town's center for me.

      To privatize the library would be unthinkable, like handing over something shared by all, but still very personal, to be run by just another money-making outfit. Thanks, but I already have access to a mall if I want more of that kind of experience.

      To consolidate services to somewhere more central? What's the point of my kids couldn't stop there on their walk home from school? Some people don't even have cars, and what would they do?

      Reduce hours? Maybe, but how far? It's not just about the books, it's the meeting rooms, the programs, the help on a paper, and just knowing there's always an outpost of civilization surviving somewhere in the wilds of commercialized America.

      Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

      by chimpy on Tue May 24, 2011 at 06:29:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And they're asking libraries (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to do even more with less. In Ohio, most public assistance and unemployment, etc. has to be applied for online. So. cut the library's funding, close buildings, cut hours, and you make it nearly impossible to sign up for assistance. How many of those eligible for aid have been able to maintain an internet connection? It's all related. Keep people poor and ignorant and hey! maybe they'll vote republican... if they vote at all.

  •  Shared with Progressive Friends of the Library (7+ / 0-)

    Had never thought of studying why libraries close, so the link to Florida's study is welcome. When any structure falls apart, its engineers need to ask why. When a patient gets worse instead of better, a doctor takes a closer look at the science behind his care. When those things happen on wider scales, we involve panels of experts in the fields to review design assumptions or epidemiological data.

    So, why should we not look closer at the failing of a town to support a library? And, all the many towns succumb to the same structural failures, or the same widespread illness? Because failure to start a library, or even worse, the closing of an existing one, is a serious failing of a society's health.

    Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

    by chimpy on Tue May 24, 2011 at 06:10:07 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for putting this issue... (7+ / 0-)

    in the Limelite. Since Benjamin Franklin, libraries are the places where our culture breathes. Returning to my small branch library in Omaha's Benson district several years ago and seeing it expanded was a tremendously moving experience for me. It was there that an addiction to reading and a love of fiction was born. It was where I learned to love biography and science and where I first discovered poetry. The librarians there wisely let me use and check out books from the adult section (with their approval, and they never turned me down) well before I turned ten. I'm not sure whether my education was advanced more in the school room or in the library (of course, they went hand-in-hand).  I currently live in a town with a new library building and an acute interest in expanding its library's collection, in all forms. It's the most used building in the city, public or private. Good libraries lift entire communities. Great libraries make our communities great. Those who favor defunding and destroying libraries have no sense of their true worth. Thanks for underscoring their value...and their precarious position in today's political craziness.  

  •  Thanks so much for this diary. (5+ / 0-)

    I join the chorus in support of free public libraries.  I love mine and use it all the time. It has cut back on its hours just a bit, but otherwise seems to be thriving.  It's almost always busy.  The reference librarians are wonderful.  One of them once spent well over half an hour helping me out with some research--she was absolutely absorbed and curious and wanted to get the answers for me--and she did. I couldn't thank  her enough.  I doubt I would get that level of commitment anywhere but at a free public library.

    And I love seeing the mix of people there--very young and very old, studious or just browsing--who frequent it.  It's a great, welcoming place.  I can't imagine it not being here.  I  

  •  Hunger Games, others review (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    avsp, chimpy

    I'm in the middle of writing reviews for the following, so you'll see them soon:

    Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (includes discussion of progressive themes in text)
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
    the Clockwork Universe, Edward Dolnick

    It gives a lovely light.

    by CayceP on Tue May 24, 2011 at 09:07:29 PM PDT

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