A Case For Libraries

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.

T.S. Eliot

Public service venues have always needed funding. They have always needed people to run and care for them. They have always taken time, attention to detail and a constant influx of ideas to keep their doors open.

Recent years have shown consumers and visitors and donors just how important venues like libraries truly are. It doesn’t matter how much information is stored on the Internet digitally. For countless patrons of libraries across the world, these buildings provide a warm, safe haven to concentrate on getting whatever they need to do done.

One of the biggest library systems in the world, one originally funded by Andrew Carnegie, has been known to sustain nearly 2,000 libraries across the United States. The earliest chartered in 1886.

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.

Jane Austen

Back in 2019, I utilized the knowledge of the fantastic folks for an entire summer at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Their website is such a fabulous resource. When the government isn’t shut down. And when there’s enough funding to keep this public library afloat.

When they subsequently shut down for nearly a year in 2020 (we all know what was happening then), I found I greatly missed having that resource available to me. Especially when local libraries didn’t have what I was looking for.

That being said, the libraries of the Allegheny County Library Association absolutely know how to get the most knowledgeable lovers of books on their staff. Without these fine individuals, I never would’ve gotten the research done that I needed to do a few years ago for an old novel project. And this, my friend, brings us to the main point of today’s blog post:

Why Libraries Need State Funding

Libraries, for decades – if not centuries – have had to get creative with raising the funds necessary to keep the lights on. The front desks staffed. The buildings warm. In recent years, ACLA’s Love Your Library campaign has popped up to help keep alive their network of over 70 (yes, you read that number correctly) libraries in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania alone.

Clearly, it’s not enough. While I, personally, would love to assist more in donating in general, I find that I cannot do so as of yet. And, although I love the idea of Love Your Library, more help is needed. According to powerlibrary.org, there is legislation in place to help fund this public service, and is voted upon by Pennsylvania state representatives.

The major downside is that the “OCL reserves the right to change or terminate the ACCESS PENNSYLVANIA POWER Library program based on the availability of funding, program needs, or the availability of vendors that can provide qualified services.” That goes for any library under the OCLs jurisdiction, not just powerlibrary.org.

While PA libraries can apply for grants to help with renovations, get new materials and so on, fundraising is difficult, time consuming work. If only the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would recognize that and allocate more funds for education, materials and folks needed to help library patrons find what they’re looking for.

A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded.

Lemony Snicket

The librarians and other staff members of Northland Public Library – the library I frequent the most – have asked for our help in encouraging Pennsylvania state representatives and senators to not let our libraries get left behind. Over on their webpage titled Advocacy, they’ve included several resources we can use to contact the most important individuals. I will still include a few items here:

Supporting Municipalities
Town of McCandless Council – click here
Ross Township Board of Commissioners – click here
Franklin Park Borough Council – click here
Marshall Township Board of Supervisors – click here
Bradford Woods Borough Council – click here

In the coming weeks, I myself will be taking the time to send correspondence to the following Pennsylvania elected officials:

  1. Senator Lindsey Williams
  2. Representative Rob Mercuri
  3. Representative Sara Innamorato
  4. Representative Emily Kinkead
  5. Representative Conor Lamb

Conor Lamb is not on Northland’s initial list, but he is my district rep. That’s why I’ve included him.

I’m Sure Libraries in Your Own Area Need Help, Too

I encourage you all – book readers and book writers alike – to look into your state (or country) legislation when it comes to library funding. For every person who loves to read, there are those who haven’t picked up a book in years. Who haven’t stepped foot in any sort of library institution since grade school.

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.

Sidney Sheldon

Literacy is still a huge topic of concern for educators everywhere. Let us not be the generation to kill off public access to educational and entertainment resources for those who come after. The past few years have been hard on us all. Let’s see how big a difference we can make in 2022!