Let’s Talk Opinion, Shall We?

23 Jul

We’ll start by reading this opinion piece published on Forbes.com on Saturday, July 21, 2018, Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money. (EDIT: It looks as though Forbes.com has removed the article from their website! 7/23/18) It is Panos Mourdoukoutas’s opinion that local libraries are no longer needed in communities and replacing them with Amazon brick-and-mortar bookstores, we’d save taxpayers’ money as we increase the stock value of Amazon.

Where do I even begin?!?!?!?!

He starts off this opinion piece stating exactly why libraries are important to their communities – borrow books, gathering place, free internet accesss, etc. But goes on to state that these services are no longer as valuable as they once were. Why? Because Starbucks, and Netflix, and technology.

Starbucks acts as the third place, neither work nor home, but a place outside of these two where people can gather and use their free internet access and that’s true, according to their official policy as stated after the incident in Philadelphia.

Netflix and other streaming services are available to many people, if you’ve got a disposable income that allows you to spend $10 or more a month on access, plus having internet access and the technology to watch it on.

Technology, again a great asset to many – if you’ve got the disposable income for it. But, what if you don’t? How can you access that amazing free Internet at Starbucks without a smartphone or tablet? Mr. Mourdoukoutas clearly views the world out of a lens of privilege as this is not the case for many in our country. It’s also surprising that so many people forget that access to Internet is not available everywhere. Check out this map to see that basic access isn’t available throughout the U.S. And gasp, even Starbucks can’t be found in every community. But, did you know there are more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonald’s or Starbucks- that’s pretty cool!

So here’s my opinion:

  • Libraries are one of the original third places – offering space for communities to come together.
  • Libraries offer a variety of resources – books, magazines, ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies and online resources that can be accessed both at home (through online access or streaming) or at the physical library.
  • Libraries have technology as well, it might not always be the top-of-the-line, but that’s a whole other conversation, but libraries have internet and computer access.
  • Libraries are a place for people to go when it’s too hot or too cold outside and we don’t mind if you just come in and hang out.
  • Libraries are a place to go to apply for a job – when most jobs are looking for online applications.
  • Libraries offer early literacy classes to the youngest members of their communities, getting them ready for school.
  • Libraries allow kids to learn and explore with new technology, old technology (like sewing machines) and everything in between. They have and always will be makerspaces – from making an adorable piece of process art as a toddler, to learning how electricity can flow through lemons.
  • Libraries offer students a place to learn – borrow books from across the country, research articles online from thousands of journals and places to study for the next big test. (Or even take a test as many libraries off test proctoring).
  • Libraries teach teens about life as an adult – cooking, cleaning, finances, homebuying, etc. All those things that you don’t learn at school – libraries are offering classes in them.
  • Libraries teach immigrants English and not just the basics, but how to understand school forms for their kids, idioms in the language that can be confusing and how to use public transportation.
  • Libraries are a haven for the homeless, who have very few places where they are welcome to just be.
  • Libraries offer new parents a place to connect at storytime so they feel less alone.
  • Libraries teach senior citizens about technology, the way around the healthcare system when they’re ready to retire, and how to make sure their finances are in order.
  • Libraries are for everyone. The underserved, the underprivileged, the middle class, the people in rural, suburban and inner city communities, the rich, every religion, culture and race.

I could easily go on with stories I’ve heard from my own patrons, stories shared by other librarians and research from our field, but I’m not going to do that.

I dare anyone who hasn’t visited their local library in a while, to stop by and get a library card – ask the staff about what they offer and why they like working in a library and I’ll bet you, you’ll meet some amazing people that are doing their very best to serve the community with very little funding and a lot of heart.

And as for Mr. Mourdoukoutas and Forbes.com, please do some research before writing a piece like this again. Yeah, I know it’s your opinion, but back it up with some facts as least. A librarian probably could have shown you a number of articles that directly refute your argument that libraries are no longer of value. Like this article about the analysis of Pew Research Data, or this article about the Public Library Data service, or this one about how public libraries build community. Librarians like helping people with research… it’s kind of what we do! Plus, check out this article in Medium that talks about tax money vs. the money needed to have all the services of libraries paid out of pocket. What I love is that there are over 4,000 comments posted on Mr. Mourdoukoutas’s tweet about this article and many are by librarian or in support of libraries.

Libraries are more than just the books on the shelves, the trained professionals ready to help the community, they are all of these things and more… just take the time to check them out!

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5 Responses to “Let’s Talk Opinion, Shall We?”

  1. Pam Arnhold July 23, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    Well written. I have used libraries all my life, both in school and out. I believe they enhance education and especially imagination. I am proud to say I have already begun to take my grandchildren to their community library.

  2. Kathleen July 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

    Laura, I completely agree with you! I hadn’t read that original article,but so glad you wrote about it.
    As a student my school and town library were an important part of my life. When my daughter was younger, the town library was a fantastic place with storytime and summer reading camps. As an author I’m so grateful for all the librarians have done for my book and inviting me to their book club meetings.
    Libraries play a vital role in our communities!
    Thank you for all you do for children,adults, and authority.

  3. Becky @ Disney in your Day July 23, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

    When you look at all of the things you listed that libraries can provide, it’s absurd to think that a Starbucks or Amazon could replace it!

  4. Katie K July 25, 2018 at 11:47 am #

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS IMPORTANT POST!!!

    I can’t even believe that someone doesn’t like libraries *gasp* You are totally right, they provide crucial resources to those who can’t afford it, help foster children through reading, and they’re filled with books 📚❤️

    I am actually riding in a car going to my local library right now, attending a program through NCL, called Sunshine Readers (google it) At Sunshine Readers, you read to little kids at the the local library in a theatrical manner. It’s not only fun for me, but the little ones. I feel so proud to serve this cause that truly shapes the children’s desire to read. It would be such a shame if they didn’t have the library as a resource for learning, and fun!

    Thank you for spreading the good message,

    -Katie K
    http://www.katiethatbookishgirl.com

    • literacious July 25, 2018 at 12:32 pm #

      Thanks, Katie! Enjoy your volunteer work and thanks for making such a positive impact on the way kids view books and reading!

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