Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why We Need Libraries

This is a bit off the usual topic of conversation, but as recent sentiments of the gun community and extreme libertarian community have come to light, it's time for me to argue in favor of public libraries.

Some tinfoil hat types have declared that libraries are outdated, that their contents should be digitized, and the buildings and librarians turned over to the free market. They are angry at the academic predisposition to socialist, leftist ideologies that have percolated into the local library. Many scoff at the idea of  using tax dollars to pay for anything that isn't related to an absolute necessity for basic civilization and order. Wanting to quash any government subsidies they disagree with, these types forget some core American principles.

Getting rid of libraries isn't going to do anyone any favors. Libraries serve as a community education institution and place of recreation. Libraries are for the mind what public pools, parks, and playgrounds are for the body. In past centuries, books were prohibitively expensive and treasured possessions. Even with the revolutions in printing technology, books were still very expensive for the poor. The concept of a public library was revolutionary; all of sudden, huge volumes of books were available to anyone. Money was not a barrier to reading. Literacy soared.

Likewise, parks and playgrounds were popularized as cities grew and there were no longer any open spaces for the public to enjoy. In the days when 'bad air', miasma, was thought to cause disease, parks were seen as a solution to crowded, and polluted slums. Playgrounds got kids to play somewhere other than busy streets, littered with garbage and sewage. During the Depression, community centers were hubs of activities and educational programs. Without all these public accommodations, the poor would have to do without.

Public money going to libraries and public recreation facilities like them are vitally important. Imagine how many children would not be educated if public schools weren't available or if schooling wasn't mandatory. Set aside any bias for public schooling you might have; if it weren't for free, public education and that it is required, how many people would prefer their kids get jobs instead? Most of us have relatives in living memory who were under educated and wished they had more schooling. Dumb people are not a benefit to the world.

So let's say we get rid of libraries. Are we going to subsidize Kindles or tablets for the poor? Of course not. If we lose libraries, we loose a valuable part of our community. Free books are suddenly gone. People stop reading. History and culture is forgotten. Books are also more durable than digital media. Books will survive for centuries, where digital media will be outdated in a decade and subject to environmental factors like EMP or solar flares. If electricity disappears, we lose out on millennia of recorded human knowledge.

Books also have a great value too simply as books. In today's world of short attention spans and popular social media it's easier to post a meme on Facebook, bitch about whatever upsets you, and then go on with your life without doing anything to solve the problem you were complaining about. I'm absolutely shocked at how few gun owners do more than bitch. If they were willing to read or do research, they would find this blog and our website, and get the answers to their questions in astonishing detail. Nevada Carry weaves together years of collective knowledge into one place to make it accessible to anyone who can use Google. Yet even clicking a link to read a 1500 word article is too hard!

Sitting down and reading a book or an article allows one to take the time to mentally digest what they are reading. Without images, a reader has to think about what they're reading. Books give us new insight and perspective into issues that are often glossed over or not suitable for visual media. Read a darn book! Think!

Libraries also protect the right to free speech. Librarians are as hardcore about that as gun owners are about the Second Amendment. A public library means that the content inside isn't restricted by membership, money, or to a certain ideology. Just imagine if the only libraries were private ones and run the same way the mainstream media is run, or if they were funded by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg. Do you think that the Islamic Reading Room would have a wide diversity of viewpoints and authors? Access to a diversity of ideas is vital and only a public library, protected by the First Amendment, can maintain access to all.

If we get rid of libraries, we get rid of all that. No free DVDs, no free internet, no study spaces. If you want to save tax money by dumping public libraries, then you better dump public parks, pools, and rec centers. But I'm willing to bet that people who can't afford huge book collections, Netflix fees, the Internet, a house with a yard or a pool will want to keep subsidizing libraries. It's money well spent, even if the people who run the places might not agree with your particular view on something.

I have to admit my own bias.One of my chief complaints with libraries today is that they are not about books. I was shocked to see CDs and DVDs come into the library. I have to admit I feel derisive towards those who use libraries are simply a free version of Netflix. It seems that most people come to the library for an air conditioned space with free WiFi or computers. Heck, in my days as a library page I had to dodge children who spent the after school hours in free, unsupervised childcare at the library. Even if I don't like the 'dumbing down' of libraries, it's a public service that those people deserve.

Another one of the objections to libraries is..."Who needs them lie-berries when I got Google?" The Internet does not have always have the comprehensive answers that you need. Of course, even without Google, most people would rather post a question on Facebook rather than use Google to find a site like that answers their questions in detail. But the kind of people who won't look beyond the surface for their answers probably don't give a crap about anything much more than their own narrow, self-centered world.

The world needs libraries. The world needs educated, well-informed individuals. The men who built America and penned the documents that enshrine your lights were literate men with extensive book collections. America and civilization was not built on memes and hashtags. Those of you who deride libraries and look for easy answers are not the kind of men that history is built on. You who do not read, who do not think, and who do not act are why America is in the trouble it is in today. This attitude that books, libraries, and reading are all outdated are all symptom of the same disease that makes those sheeple you love to joke about. You're one too; you just convince yourself you are a wolf in disguise.

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