According to yesterday's Boston Globe, writing about the Boston Public Library system: Circulation in the system has risen 31 percent in the last three years.
This in an article headlined: Boston Public Library may close 10 of its branches.
According to me: The dollars that a city or state will invest in their libraries, measures its willingness to care for its children, seniors, teenagers. It shows how far it will go to help those who don't have the funds for books, don't have a warm and safe place to spend an afternoon, or need a place for their little ones to sit with other squirming toddlers to learn the joy of books.
Our economy is down. We need to cut back. Yes. Still . . .if you are a parent and your family loses one quarter of it's income, do you protect the person who maybe greased your way into a country club membership? (Perhaps, um, akin to a campaign contributor's sinecure in a remote post in a hidden agency budget line?) Or do you protect the dues you pay for your children's afterschool program, ensuring they are safe while you're out looking for a job?
At this moment in my life I can buy the books I need-and I mean need. For me, as for many, books are how I relax, learn, research, get to sleep, get through trauma, celebrate . . . they are right after shelter, food, and health care. But it wasn't long ago that I got 95% of my reading through the library. As did my children.
Troubled and neglected kids can be saved by books-and I don't use those words as hyperbole. I was raised by books. Almost every day I walked the twenty or so Brooklyn blocks to get to my neighborhood library branch. Like the steady family I'd wished I had, there it always was.
That's the beauty of books. They don't just transport, they heal, they teach, and they soothe. On the loneliest of days, they ask no more than picking them up. In the worst of times, they stand by.
We need to offer this opportunity, now more than ever. Our economy is down; thus people are out of work. Doesn't it make sense to protect (along with teachers, police, fire-fighters and health workers) the place where folks can (without cost) write their resumes, look for jobs, bring their children, pass the burden of unfilled hours, meet their neighbors, surf the web, learn the future and learn from the past?
I do not believe that the libraries are the only place we can cut in either a municipal or state budget, or that they should be in the first line for slashes. I know it is an easy place to take a whack. Personally, I wish there were a box to check on tax forms to give extra dollars to libraries. And I wish that every politician valued our libraries even a quarter as much as they seem to value campaign contributions.
Sometimes parents aren't equipped to raise children. Sometimes adult children aren't equipped to care for elderly parents. That's when the village should step in. That's why we have schools. And hospices. And libraries.
About Randy Susan
Causes Randy Susan Meyers Supports
Women for Women
New England Home for Little Wanderers