Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are Libraries Really Neccessary?

If you pay any attention to the news, you know that state and local governments are suffering from serious budget problems. Many desperate politicians are drastically cutting funds for public libraries, causing cutbacks in hours and services. Some communities are losing their libraries altogether. Mississippi is no different. There was an article in many state newspapers this week discussing the cuts to state funding of libraries. Local governments are being asked to make up the difference, but most simply cannot afford it. All across the state and country, people are asking "Are libraries really necessary?"

After all, with the internet, do we really need books and libraries? First of all, not everyone has access to the internet, especially in poor, rural areas. Secondly, libraries are so much more than just books. Communities that cut their library budgets are only making matters worse. Libraries remain one of the best economic engines available and probably do more than any other government service to help people and communities survive hard times.

There is overwhelming data showing the value of libraries in a bad economy -  library usage increases significantly during these times. Why? Because libraries provide needed services. When budgets are tight, people frequently quit buying books and subscribing to newspapers and magazines. So they come to the library to read them for free. (We even offer coffee for only $1 while reading that magazine.) Instead of paying for movies, people check them out for free at the library. When people lose their jobs, they come to the library for help with resumes and job searches - or to start a new business.  Children can be entertained for free with books, storytime, and special children's computers. Free use of computers at libraries is very popular. Come into the library any time, and you'll see people using the computers.

There is no better place for research than a public library - which helps people with all manner of problems related to a poor economy. Learn how to do things yourself rather than hiring someone to do it for you. Find out how to avoid foreclosure or increase your credit score. Look for scholarships for school or training. Whatever you need to know, you can probably find the answer at your library.

So are libraries really necessary? You bet! Investing taxpayer money in a public library in a no brainer.

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