Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stop crying about the demise of Borders. Start DOING something about libraries.

Libraries are absolutely at the center of my life. Since I couldn't afford to go to college, I attended the library three or four days a week from the age of eighteen on, and graduated from the library when I was twenty-eight. - Ray Bradbury

Even though my local Borders store closed a few months back, I have to admit, when I first heard Borders was closing all their stores, a little part of me was sad. OK, maybe a big part of me. I have lots of memories sitting in that store, browsing books and magazines, studying for an exam, etc. Of course, I realized I still had access to books, but nostalgia can suck big time.

After I boohooed for a bit, I read this fantastic opinion piece inspired by Mitch Albom's hyper-emotional response to the the end of Borders' "magic." Then that thing, lurking around in my subconscious, came bursting to the surface: Borders kind of had it coming. Not only that, but it seemed that people were overly concerned about the demise of a business that was managed horribly since the advent of the web. But, truly, is that where book and information lovers' concerns should be?

Libraries are being used now more than ever. Library usage has skyrocketed due to the bad economy, and libraries continually adapt to provide access to information via new information mediums. I constantly use my library's website to check out books for my nook, and use my library's databases for research from home. So I think that there is huge potential for libraries to remain relevant, as most of my patronage to my library happens through my computer. So why are so many libraries closing?

As a librarian, I have seen first-hand that libraries are much more than a place to check out a book. They are an equalizer in a democracy. They allow everyone in any income bracket to access information. Many children and parents from low income families are exposed to early literacy skills that will help them for the rest of their lives during story time programs. Those out of work come to the library to find information on how to build resumes, apply for jobs, and learn how to use necessary software for a career with classes on microsoft office applications. Many who are underprivileged can only access the internet through their local library. And so many job applications today can only be submitted online.

Libraries are absolutely essential to a free society. Yet that didn't stop America's oldest library to come under threat in recent years. Thanks to community support, after a successful campaign to save it, the library survived.

It should be addressed that citizens shouldn't wait speak out in support of libraries. People need to stand up and say something NOW, before public libraries are threatened. If a person loves their library, they should say so. Whether in a town hall meeting, a letter to a council member or the mayor, they need tell politicians about the importance of having a public library in their community.

Those in positions of power, can become detached from what it means to not have access to information. It is likely they all have high speed internet, the job skills they need, an education, and if they need to read a book, there is nothing really stopping them from buying it outright. Because of this, they start to view libraries as "expendable."

We still HAVE booksellers, and many independent booksellers are thriving. Barnes and Noble is still around because the company was smart enough to jump on the internet bandwagon early enough, and Amazon is still selling loads of books. It isn't as if Borders' demise is a sign that people are no longer reading. To say so would be like saying that Blockbuster went under because people stopped watching movies. It's simply a business run by a bunch of ivory tower folks who were unwilling to adapt to the new markets in time. That's not a tragedy, that's just business.

Unfortunately, even though most public libraries are adapting, and have been adapting to meet changing information needs, they are free, not-for-profit government services. So even though they are being utilized more now than ever, they aren't exactly making money. And when city budgets get tight, services get cut. Mainly because the citizenry isn't saying anything.

Has your local library had to reduce services or hours in recent years? Would do something if you knew your library might close its doors? Do you love your library? (Then please say something!) 

Resources to get started with library advocacy:

(Please share your links too!)

PS- If anyone complains that they are upset they are going to have to drive an extra "so-and-so" minutes to get to another bookstore, I'm going to tell that person to get over it. Borders was the only retail bookstore on this side of my island. Now it's gone. So I no longer have access to that fun cozy environment with cafes and magazine racks... at all. Not to mention, ordering things online sucks when you live in Hawaii. Thank goodness for my library. :)


  1. I lurve my library!! The city just recently built a brand new library, complete with new computers, a meeting room, a super cute kids section, and self-check out (okay, that one's kinda weird). It's also within walking distance to my house, so I walk over there all the time. Great post, I hope more people realize that the library is a great resource for their reading materials and also way easier on the wallet!

  2. My town library has a website where you can check out e-books as well. I think that is wonderful as I read most of my books now on my iPad. I still love the feel of the library even if I don't read print books as often as before.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm returning the favor! :)

  3. BookJunkie and Tammi- Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments. I also love the library as a place. Sometimes the library is the only place one can go to think. :) Also, bookjunkie, my last library where I worked went exclusively self check out. It was kind of nice once people started getting used to it, but then there were quite a few who were resistant to the change.

  4. You are SO right. I went to a city meeting thingy where the guy said that they were closing down a library and nobody blinked. Nobody said anything. It seemed like I was the only one who looked up and froze for a second contemplating the demise of that poor library and everybody it reaches and could have potentially reach to.

    I was going to blog about this epidemic but you beat me to the punch, lol. But laughing and kidding aside, I really appreciate you highlighting this issue. It hurts me that people are really considering closing down libraries and only see a money pit.

    Anyway, all babbling and crying aside, this is an excellent post. I'm glad to be a follower. :)

  5. So right. Hell, as sad as this sounds (though I live in a small city that never had a Borders) I never knew what Borders was. So when I hear everyone complaining about how they're shutting down, yeah it's sad since it's a book store, but I just want to tell them to shut up. There are other ways to get books, and the library is a big one.

    Hell, for the longest time, the library was the only way I could read books I hadn't read before because I didn't have money to buy my books.

  6. Larissa- That is absolutely awful! I think I would have lost it right there on the spot. Library supporters need to speak out!

    Lonewolf- Thank you for saying so. It IS just a bookstore. And there are so many other bookstores out there. A community library is a one of a kind thing, giving the "little guy" access to information he otherwise couldn't afford.

  7. By the way, I'm so happy to meet other Larissa's via the internets! My name is so uncommon. :D

  8. I have to admit that with Borders closing in my area, I sure have saved a lot of money. It was so easy to buy the book, now, its so easy to check the book out of the library and return it. No, more piling books into the corner because I don't know what to do with them after they have been read. It has really helped with my youngest who reads like its going out of style. 

  9. True fact! It's amazing how when such things happen (i.e. Borders closing) you realize the value of a library. 


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