Monday, February 03, 2014

Libraries: FREE is a GREAT price!

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” (Albert Einstein)

I love libraries; this is no secret. I have spent hours upon hours in libraries. I remember with fondness my father taking me to the local public library as a boy. I volunteered at the public library while in high school. During my first three years at university, I worked in the university library's periodicals department, often reading more than or alongside working. I've made a habit of visiting university libraries in different cities when I can, one of my favorites being at the University of Chicago.

As an adult, a parent, and an educator, libraries have taken on a new significance. I make full use of the library, having complete four checked-out books since the start of the year, having attended a lecture/presentation, having taken my sons to story time almost every week. It's a wonder to me that people don't go to libraries more often!

In this and the next few entries, I plan to go through a list of why I think libraries are so important.

#1: Libraries are FREE

Let's just start with the obvious and most appealing: Checking out books (or cd's or dvd's) from the library is free. Whether you check out one item a year or several items a week, you don't pay a cent, aside from the occasional late fee. People love free; don't you?

I realize libraries require money to operate. I realize that taxes are used to pay for library services, both labor and materials. In this way, they are definitely not free. Nevertheless, could you get books from a bookstore? From Amazon? The cheapest book I've ever bought online was a used book from Amazon for a penny. Yet the shipping cost was $3.95. Comparatively, I have three books in my home right now, for which I have paid nothing directly, and if I calculate the cost from my share of taxes, it would still be miniscule compared to that $3.96 book.

In our day and age, with increasing awareness of the haves and the have-nots, those with access to information and those without, libraries can be a great equalizer. Knowledge is there for the taking. FREE! Once we get past the fetish of needing to have our own copies of books (even books we may only read once), the appeal of free becomes apparent.

Take advantage of libraries. They want to be taken advantage of.

“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.” (Ray Bradbury)

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