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.  


  1. As a librarian and educator and thinking person, I find this truly appalling.

  2. Libraries: A place in which literary and artistic materials are kept for reading, reference, or lending.Such a simple definition. How can they engender such strong feelings pro and con?

    Libraries have been part of the fabric of American life since prior to the Revolution. They have allowed for an educated populace - the foundation of a democracy according to Thomas Jefferson.

    In our country we have grown because we allow different beliefs and opinions. To burn books because we don't like what they say is indeed a step backwards - a very large step.

    I hope that this doesn't happen and saner minds prevail.

  3. We love the library for story time and their summer reading program. I'm amazed at the services they provide the community both within the building and through other community institutions. We love the library and the books, CDs, DVDs, audio books and programs they provide. To quote someone close to me, "you can't erase stupid". Opinions don't come with a price tag, just the consequences.

  4. I cannot image what these people are thinking. Libraries have been a very important of my life since I was in elementary school. I've been lucky enough to pass along the love of libraries to my children. To me, burning the contents of a library is like burning a church, pure sacrilege!

  5. Surely, there is a better solution than burning any books - perhaps donating to the school libraries or the museum or a bookstore. Have a sale of the books through the Friends of the library (whatever it is called there) and put the money raised back into the community. But definitely the public needs the library and the resources it does provide. You have given very good reasons to have public libraries stay open. They are also equalizers - anyone who can sign their name and fill out a small form and present some form of ID and proof of residency can go to the library and be considered an equal. Libraries provide so much that it would be a huge problem if this library burns all those books. I can think of many places who would love to have the books in that collection. Hope they get a lot of outraged responses to this book burning situation that they see the error of their ways and decide to do something more productive with the books than burn them - such a major loss to see books burned for any reason. E :)

    Ma America, The Travelin' Maven (Elysabeth Eldering)
    Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    Where will the adventure take you next?

  6. There is no strong push from the residents of Troy, my city, to burn our books. It's a hoax from some nutty real estate agent. Maybe he's trying to get his name out there to get more business, or maybe he is just nutty. We don't know.

  7. Thanks for the comments and sharing, all. I agree with all of your sentiments. I especially like how Elysabeth described free public libraries as a great equalizer. At a time when it is becoming more and more difficult for those in tough economic situations to achieve the American Dream, free public libraries offer a chance for everybody to have access to information, literature, and resources that aid the pursuit of that dream. Sometimes those of us who have internet access on a few different devices, several magazine subscriptions, and shelves full of books forget that.

  8. "And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

    So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."
    — Kurt Vonnegut

    We are working hard to support libraries, we have a long long long list of why libraries are so very important to a healthy society -they are peppered throughout out webite. Visit The Books for Walls Project especially for "Save Troy Library Tuesday". "John" posted about the book burning party on our website (which is clearly in support of libraries and literacy); we do not understand the motivation or the true intentions of the group, we hope to find out and share.

    If you visit the facebook page for the book burning party, you will see it is NOT a strong push, so many of the comments are negative. We'll follow the story and report what we find.

  9. I hope you saw that Chris Crutcher's book Angry Managment is being tossed out of a school district in my homestate of SC. Visit my blog (it's listed in your side bar - Cathy Nelson's Professional Thoughts!) Chris Crutcher gives us an action statement to let the folks in this school district know what we think, and I did just that-and shared it on my blog too.

    (Yeah this was probably more appropriate to last week's fab five.)

  10. The Four of Us,
    Fantastic Quote and thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

    Thanks for the comment. I read your (excellent) post and left a comment. For others that want to see Cathy's post, here's the link: