When someone mentions the public library, many people see the posted image in their mind. The library is seen as an archaic, outdated, little-needed entity.
That could not be further from the truth. Libraries are a vital part of a city’s “soft infrastructure”, and one of the key components in young families choosing a home. Plainly, soft infrastructure is the financial system, the education system, the health care system, the system of government, and law enforcement, and emergency services. Libraries are right in there, with significant cultural significance.
The problem is when you see libraries only as book-lending institutions. They are so much more than that, and continue to move in the direction of becoming community centers, social outreach, networks of people and ideas, and champions of the all-important skill for a modern society: literacy.
Sociologist Eric Klinenberg, in a recent interview, argued that urban resilience can be measured not only by the condition of transit systems and basic utilities and communication networks, but also by the condition of parks, libraries and community organizations: “open, accessible, and welcoming public places where residents can congregate and provide social support during times of need but also every day.”
So, what to do? There needs to be a renewed excitement about the language, reading, books, the coming together of people to discuss thoughts, notions, ideas … a safe and relaxing, welcoming space for the community to gather and receive mental nourishment. To feel connected to one another, their community, and valued as an important member.
Libraries can do this? Libraries which are imbued with life can do this, yes.