Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hamilton Spectator: Back Off Bullies -- Leave Our Libraries Alone

Back off bullies, leave our libraries alone
Hamilton Spectator
February 14, 2017

By Penny Gumbert

You might think I'm a freeloader. I read my friend's magazines and newspapers. I borrow CDs, books and videos. My friend even has a computer set up for my use. Not bad, eh? My friend's always there and knows the real me and my penchant for murder mysteries, British movies and instrumental music. Everybody needs a friend like mine. But wait! There is a friend like this in every community. It's your local library.

Libraries have always been important to me. We moved a lot when I was a kid and finding the nearest library was my security blanket. It was a friendly haven. More than that, it was a mentor. When I was in my teens an astute librarian, noticing my boredom with the young adult section, introduced me to Graham Greene and C.P. Snow. At various times in my life the library has been a study hall, a meeting place, a cool place to be in the heat of Hamilton's summers and always a source of inspiration.

What about the family that can't afford books and computers? When I was growing up my family's income meant I relied on the library for books. If new purchases are only to reflect the frequency of use, librarians may have trouble justifying a balance in their stock to reflect all of their community. Should all sectors of society be deprived of these resources because the local library just can't afford the materials or must close two days a week because it can't afford the staff? That excellent librarian many years ago was the reason I wasn't turned off reading.

More than 17 years ago I wrote the above, and more, about my love affair with libraries. It was published in The Hamilton Spectator when I was one of a group of volunteers who wrote on community issues.

Libraries were under siege then, too. I feel the same way today, if not more strongly. My local library is a beehive of activity. People who do not have Internet access people the desks. Teens with headphones find a safe place. Other teens garner work experience stocking shelves. Tutors coach kids who need a little extra help. Talk about democracy!

A book club with seniors discusses their latest read. Infants lie on the rug mesmerized by the book being read aloud. Youngsters take pride in being able to check out their own books. Literacy lives!

Like the issue of public radio, the necessity of public libraries keeps being debated and I do not understand why in either case. There is nothing to discuss. Libraries are not there to be turning a profit and, if operating at a loss, so what? Our libraries must be protected. The library is a lynch pin of Canadian society, providing information and services to all. Access to a library affects social mobility. It is a passport to democracy. Back off, bullies. The library is here to stay.

Penny Gumbert is a lifelong lover of libraries and Hamilton resident.

Source: Hamilton Spectator

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