The Importance of Libraries

Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois

To me there’s something magical about libraries. They are not mere repositories of what some consider stale old books, but places where people of all walks of life come together in a shared space. I’ve had the pleasure of having lived all over the world; and everywhere I went, after having established utilities and gotten my personal things situated, I went to the local library to get my card. The library card was my passport to new worlds and the path to personal enlightenment.

Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois

And I’m not alone in my appreciation and love of libraries. Ray Bradbury rented a typewriter in one at a dime a half-an-hour and cranked out Fahrenheit 451. The library is the mecca for the curious autodidact and seeking bibliophile. One can find a fine private education if one so desires. Ray Bradbury says:

“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years… I read everything in the library. I read everything. I took out 10 books a week so I had a couple of hundred books a year I read, on literature, poetry, plays, and I read all the great short stories, hundreds of them. I graduated from the library when I was 28 years old. That library educated me, not the college.”

I believe libraries to be the great equalizer, and should be free and open to all. Andrew Carnegie, yet another great example of an autodidact, a self-taught man, believed this to be true, and donated his enormous fortune to founding around 3,500 libraries. Of course libraries are not entirely “free,” some of our tax dollars go to their upkeep and organization, but I believe that to be a worthy “sacrifice” to my fellow man.

Libraries provide people with valuable services and resources, not all pertaining to books. Some offer free citizenship classes, homework assistance, tax advice, WiFi, and connections to social service agencies. Libraries are still relevant, despite the rise of the Digital Age. I liken it to the radio. TV and the internet did not kill the radio, and people still listen to the radio in their cars and at work. And for the most part, with some exceptions like Sirius XM radio, radio and libraries are generally free to all.

One of the greatest thing you can do for your children is to cultivate the lifelong love of learning and teaching them how to read. Libraries are great places for them to discover that magical world of books, and for them to interact with other people.

My sons at the Decatur Public Library, Decatur, Illinois

Libraries are also bastions of liberty often fighting against censorship, and forces that want to curtail the people’s freedom to read, learn, and discover. Always defenders of critical thinking and of ideas, the libraries are the refuge for the mind and body. For more information on the importance of libraries, please visit the American Library Association website. They have a wealth of information and knowledge.

Happy reading!