Roughly one-third of Americans don’t have Internet access at home, and for many of those it’s not very good. Libraries are for many Americans the best – sometimes the only – source of all sorts of information, for use in school, in finding employment, in learning about educational opportunities.
For many children, especially in low-income neighborhoods, libraries are a safe place to go after school, to do homework, to read, to surf the Web, in a clean well-supervised space that is friendly to kids who like learning. For all children, most libraries have an array of programs for preschoolers and schoolchildren to encourage reading. They’re one of the most efficient educational systems ever devised —incredibly resource-efficient.
Libraries have books, lots of them, on all sorts of topics. They have books for anyone who wants to read, from the beginner to the most advanced. Literacy in the U.S. is dropping; now is not the time to cut back on helping people to read. Rather than everyone having to buy their own books, libraries make lots of books available to lots of people, for very little money per person.
Libraries have magazines and newspapers, sometimes from all over the world. They help people become familiar with how other people see things – and without having to spend a lot of money. They allow explorations of new subjects at a very low cost.
For immigrants trying to learn English, a library is a vital resource offering lots of reading material for all levels of ability; as well as providing programs to help adults and children learn to read.
For elderly people on fixed incomes, libraries provide a huge variety of interesting reading material they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
Daniel F. Chambliss, former Walker County resident and sociology professor, Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.