What is the Value of a Library?

I went to the public hearing this morning at the Multnomah Building to listen in on people’s thoughts about whether or not the commissioners should refer a library district in the upcoming November ballot.

This was another part in the city’s ongoing conversation about this matter- which included the listening sessions at five different library branches held throughout July and an online survey.

I always enjoy hearing what libraries mean to people. It’s incredible how different yet similar everyone’s relationships with libraries are, how they are more than just buildings to store books in.

It was a good turnout- with library lovers of all ages, some wearing their Summer Reading shirts from throughout the years, holding homemade signs, and ready to be heard.

My favorite testimony was from a 10-year-old boy who shared what was and wasn’t important in his life. “I don’t think it’s important to make my bed, I don’t think it’s important to clean my room and I don’t think it’s important to take a shower. I do think it’s important to have a library that’s open seven days a week.”

Seven days a week. I can’t even imagine if I had moved here on a day the library was closed. When I got here, I had this crazy idea to live in the streets and journal about my experience. But it was raining so my whole plan changed. Being new to the city and feeling lost, I sought out a place I knew I can feel safe at and help me with what to do next. I went to Central and used the free computers to look for a nice, affordable place to stay in.

Where would I be now if the library wasn’t open that day? I was and am a lucky one but how many lives are being altered because of this?

Another memorable comment came from a mother who said that the library has given her and all the children she has taken care of many riches she otherwise couldn’t have afforded.

Even I sometimes take the library for granted. How much have I saved taking advantage of the materials and resources it offers? (How much has it saved you financially? You can use this handy tool to give you an idea: Library Use Value Calculator.)

For how much Portland is known as a city of readers, it’s hard to fathom that this is even an issue. It’s really not about whether or not libraries are important to the well-being of any community (because we all know they are), it’s what we’re going to do about it- and when.

There will never be a perfect time to have this matter be brought up to the public but the time is now to do something about it.

    • Elizabeth Beekley
    • August 1st, 2012

    The hearing was amazing, wasn’t it? Can you imagine what we might learn if we could get stories from those too timid to testify? Thanks for the beautiful recap.

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