My daughter hit a big milestone first today, or at least a big milestone for my family. Today was her first official trip to the local library. Her joy at the abundance of books was slightly dampened for me at her inability to grasp the concept of NOT randomly pulling books off of shelves and scattering them on the floor.
As much as she loved running through the stacks and crawling into the toddler sized chairs, our visit was cut short by a horrible fact…our library no longer stays open past 1 p.m. on Saturdays. There are not enough people visiting the library for them to afford hiring extra help or keeping the doors open. Within the past year they have had to cut their hours back by almost half. And they are still not having the amount of traffic that years past brought them.
A flat screen television, with cable, has been added to the children’s section to try and ‘keep the little ones entertained’, the story teller hour no longer runs throughout the year, and there are currently no community classes scheduled. Are libraries falling by the wayside? Have they begun to outlive their usefulness with the readily available online resources and a more visually centered population?
I would like to think that this is not the case, but the fact of the matter seems to be that children no longer gather at the library. At one point in my middle school career I was a member of three different libraries and checked books out from each on a weekly basis. Now even small children have iPads and Kindles, constant stimulation without having to learn to carefully turn pages or read words without using the computerized aid.
How long will it be before the library becomes just another relic? A historical building with cases lined with holographic representations and little notes telling museum visitors about ‘the olden days’ when people used to flock together to borrow ‘books’ (they were in paper form back then kids!). While we fight in our school systems to keep music and art available for students, we should also be looking to the old gathering centers of town and pass that tradition of knowledge and fun alive. If we don’t, there may soon come a time when a generation has no idea what the word ‘library’ means, unless you’re talking about their music lists.
My weekend challenge for you is to go check out a local library. Make it a family trip or snag your best friend and see if there is a library near you that still has community programs going. While you’re at it, have fun! Check out a book, or two. Read to some kids, some cats, random passerby, and remember when you weren’t so busy that you couldn’t spend a lazy Saturday afternoon perusing the fiction section.
Have a Blessed day and go READ something!