This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for libraries. Throughout my life, public libraries and school libraries have provided endless hours of reading, learning, entertainment, and programs. While sociologist Eric Klinenberg celebrates libraries as important public spaces, I am grateful for their physical presence as well as the knowledge they contain and provide for users in a variety of formats. Here are some ways libraries have mattered in my life:
-As a kid, my family would go to the public library in our community once a week. The first public library was a home that had been converted into a library. It had did not have much open space but there were plenty of books to pique my interests. I recall leaving with large stacks of books to read. The second and current public library was a completely new space with more openness that enabled larger collections, providing plenty of material for me to find.
-I have experience with two academic libraries and have benefited greatly from my interactions with both. One of the underestimated perks of involvement with colleges and universities is the ability to access so much material, both on-site and from other libraries. I have used these borrowing privileges a lot, enabling research and learning from thousands of materials that would have been difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. While I have not used library space for studying as much as some, it is always helpful to have a place to go where learning is encouraged.
-Now with my own kids, the library provides learning, opportunities, and materials to enjoy at home. The fun it is to browse through books, new areas of knowledge, and activities all in one building. I hope they enjoy both the library as a space different than other spaces and a place to enjoy learning.
In sum, I think libraries are worth every penny of my individual tax dollars as well as deserve the support of the full community. Even in a world of smartphones and computers that can provide you access to information and material in no time, having a physical space dedicated to learning and books remains very important.
(One note: none of my school libraries pre-college stand out to me. This could be partly due to my reading choices when younger which veered more toward non-fiction. Or, perhaps because of my time in them was part of organized activity as opposed to operating on my own.)