Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday's Five - Benefits of Local Libraries

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.


This morning, while visiting family in Michigan, I picked up the morning edition of the “Oakland Press”, the local newspaper.  The lead article was entitled “Troy Group Promises Book Burning Party.”  From reading the article, I was appalled to learn that there is a strong push from residents of this town to not only close their local library, but to burn the 300,000 publicly owned items housed there.  At first glance, one would think that this is just satire or hyperbole to make a political point, but a Facebook page and Twitter account formed by the leaders of this movement make their incendiary intentions clear.    
I am sensitive to the need to balance the needs of publicly funded institutions like local libraries with the tax burdens we are placing on our citizens during these tough economic times.  I can understand why residents would not agree to a referendum increasing their taxes to pay for a library.  What I can’t understand is the desire to destroy public property and revert to the practices common during the Spanish Inquisition.  Have we really devolved that far as a civilization?  During the Dark Ages, knowledge and education were feared and persecuted.  It seems, with the numerous recent attacks on teachers and now books, that our society is headed back in that direction.  Perhaps our lack of history education is starting to show.  After all, if you don’t learn from mistakes in the past, you are doomed to repeat the consequences of your ancestors.  
With this in mind, today’s Friday’s Five will focus on five invaluable services that our local library provides to our community.  
  1. A place to remember our local history - Without some of the books, documents, and artifacts saved by our local library, much of the history of our small, rural area would be lost. 
  2. A resource for parents, students, and community members - For many residents, getting books to read for themselves and their children would be difficult without out local library.  For some, economic reasons would make purchasing new books difficult, and for many the half-hour drive to the nearest book store would be an obstacle.  
  3. A place to connect with the world - several of my students each year tell me that they do not have internet access at home.  This makes researching and completing some of the projects we do challenging.  The local library has several computers that are connected to the internet for the public to use.  
  4. A place for community meetings - The library has space where the community can gather for various reasons.  In addition to children's read-alouds and story time, my wife has taken exercise classes there and my children have met for arts-and-crafts activities with others their age.
  5. A source of community pride - Like our public schools, our local libraries give our communities a sense of pride and identity.  When we look at these institutions and what they provide instead of only looking at what they cost us in property taxes, it's clear that they are of benefit to our towns and cities.  Culture, knowledge, and thinking are not evil ideas.  They are the very backbone of what lifted civilization out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.  I, for one, hope that we are not headed back.
Now it's your turn.  What do you think of the book burning movement?  What benefits does your local library provide to your community?  Are public libraries worth the tax money that they take to operate?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and if you enjoy the blog, please pass it on to others.