Libraries are still important
As you can read in the About Me section of this site, I fell in love with books and reading in the fourth grade, when I discovered The Babysitter's Club. What helped sustain my love of reading was the many days and hours spent at my neighborhood library. The library was the place where I discovered the spooky world of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, adventured with the Boxcar Children, and escaped into the lush world of Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. I participated in the summer reading challenge every year, not because I cared about winning prizes, but because I could challenge myself to even more books.
I'm not sure where I would be if I didn't have access to libraries growing up. I'm sure my mom was glad that I chose to hang out at the library after school instead of engaging in other rebellious teenage antics. But what is most important is that the passion for reading it fostered in me turned into a passion for writing, and here I am today trying to be a writer. That's why reading Panos Moundoukoutas's Forbes article, Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayer Money, was so infuriating.
Panos' main argument is that libraries no longer serve a public function because they have been replaced by Amazon, where you can purchase books, and Starbucks, where we can theoretically spend time reading and on the internet. He doesn't even make a coherent argument for saving taxpayer money. The important thing that he seems to be missing is that library services are FREE, and therefore accessible to all. There's no internalized pressure to purchase a $5 coffee because you're taking up space, there's computers available for your use if you don't have your own, and hopefully you don't have to worry about the police being called you because you don't look like you "belong" at the library. Panos' article functions as a mouthpiece for Amazon and making Jeff Bezos even richer than he already is.
Libraries are a public good. They are not about making shareholders millionaires. Libraries provide services that Amazon and Starbucks are never going to offer. Dedicated librarians who help people access knowledge, summer programs for youth, free meeting space for individuals and groups, and access to computers and the internet. I worked at my neighborhood library in high school, and I was able to really see how important the library was for my community. People would come there everyday to use the computers to job search and create their resumes, print important documents, ask the librarians for help finding books in order to do their schoolwork, do their homework, host meetings, or just have a safe, clean and warm place to be for awhile.
Libraries are important, and articles like Panos' reminds us how crucial it is to support them. We cannot allow corporations to replace our public institutions.