People in this country, the USA, have choices and the right to make choices. Other than mandatory schooling for kids, not much is a requirement. There is no service by the government that people are forced to utilize. People have to obey the law, but if the law is obeyed people have choices on how to live their lives. People can utilize things like the public library or not, it is up to the individual person. Every four years for the presidential election only a little more than half of the eligible voters even vote. For something that advertised, promoted, and in the public eye people have the right not to vote. I’m trying to point out that public libraries cannot expect to engage everyone in their perspective communities or in New York City or in this country. I think the important thing to evaluate is how library services affect those who decide to use the resources, and that potential impact makes the institution worth funding far into the future.
Last week on my entry called, ‘Don’t Judge Libraries with Future Forecasts’ in the comment section my friend Joe and I got into a debate. Over the course of the comment slinging he asked a question: What can the library do for a self reliant, technically savvied, and educated person? I fumbled around an answer that the free resources available are still the most important service for an educated person. My uncle sent me an email of how he looked at special collections through a public library, and those specific documents he was looking for he could not find elsewhere. So I would add potential research can be valuable for educated people through the library. When I had dinner with my sister we discussed my blog entry, and she said the comments added to my blog and got people to read my blog more than once and got people to think. But my sister asked this about Joe’s comments: Why would the library have to service a self reliant, and educated person? In a way she is right, in a lot of cases people with more education have more opportunity, and owe that change to being able to go to college or learn a trade. Another person on my blog entry from last week said as a children’s librarian she helps plenty of people aged twenties to forties, but they are the parents of the kids that go to her story time. With such a big variety of services, the library can’t guess why everyone uses the library, and should not target age groups and education demographics as a stereotype. Lastly about last weeks blog, Joe asked what I would use the library for, and I will now add if I didn’t work in a library I’d consider attending the monthly book clubs. But as a library worker I can’t plan for my program based on a certain type of person, it’s open to any adults in the area, which makes it a good thing.
I’ve meet several people that say they haven’t used the library for long periods of time. At the library people sometimes point out they haven’t been to one in years. Libraries need to do outreach to bring people in, but the goal of a hundred percent usage by communities is unrealistic, if that happened a library might be overwhelmed based on staffing, and hours of operation. My guess is if thirty percent of a community population used the library in some way that would be huge. Libraries should contact schools, organizations, and work with the community, but the focus should be on the people in the libraries utilizing the services.
As a library worker you see people that are in there everyday. Sometimes the kids and teens are a little loud, but other days you’ll see them with homework spread out, and library books on the table studying. Currently the library I work at has tutors and homework help. The workers are part-time or volunteers, and they are busy. At the library I used to work at I’d see adults perhaps on disability reading all the newspapers we provided daily. They were informing themselves and had a place to do so. At some libraries in my system including the one I work now have Adult Learning Centers and classes for GED and computers. Some libraries have job information centers. All of these are necessary skills, and the library is a free place that can get a lot of people up to a competent level for employment. So the library helps the current crop of kids and teens, it’s help adults aged twenties to fifties that perhaps fell behind and need to catch up on their skills, and lastly it gives seniors resources and a place to go. I think potentially helping people of all generations is worth funding.
For people that use the library it is up to them how much they get out of it. On this entry I’m focusing on the education part of library services. I’ve mentioned this several times in the past, that on most library mission statements are these three words: education, recreation, and information. When it comes to importance and effecting lives, the education possible through libraries is a powerful message to convey to people questioning the worth of libraries. The public education system is free from kindergarten to twelve-grade. To get a college education takes money, circumstances, and an opportunity. The education through the library is a self-education and study. Learning is a lifelong endeavor and should not stop at age eighteen, so that is one solid reason to fund libraries.
To end this wordy entry I’ll tell of a comment from last week’s entry. My friend Kristin paraphrased Thomas Jefferson. Looking up online about the quote he and the founding fathers did emphasize a democracy should have free and equal access to information. Along with the education component I’ve talked about the information part of mission statements is important. Equal access to information is in the constitution, and libraries provide that service.
Help get the word out about the proposed budget cuts to NYC libraries and across the nation. Sign petitions, write blogs, join rallies, and be active. If library workers inform and explain what we do as much as we can perhaps people will listen. If people are complacent and inactive no one’s mind will be changed.