Why do we have libraries?

There is a debate happening in almost every library system in this country- it’s an important debate, but one that I think the public is not weighing in on enough – what is the true purpose of a public library?

Option 1: To provide the public with the most popular books and services

Everyone needs access to computers for jobs, communication, education, and entertainment- libraries are one of the only places left to offer free access to computers and the internet. The public demand is for more computers , but more computers means less shelf space. When a popular book or series comes out, the library often has a hard time making room to acquire enough copies to accommodate those who want to read it. More copies of popular, recent fiction will limit the shelf space for classic literature, which traditionally has a much, much lower circulation rate (especially if it no longer has a shiny and new cover!) Why have libraries if they are not useful?

Option 2: To be guardians of culture

Libraries should keep a large collection of classics and literature from around the world. As a public service, librarians make sure that the great literary masterpieces remain available to everyone in the community. No matter what the current trend is- from Harry Potter to Twilight- the library maintains the legacy of the great writers. Keeping this kind of collection takes a lot of space, and can limit the addition of extra computers and meeting rooms. But if librarians don’t preserve culture in each community, who will?

It doesn’t matter which option you choose, but pick one. Without your knowledge, interest, or action, this choice is probably being made for you- right now.

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