You've probably heard this phrase (or similar wording) before: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
There are a lot of people not paying attention.
In the latest Toledo-Lucas County Public Library e-newsletter, the library director writes that the Toledo [Ohio] Public Library system "continues to see major increases in customer use. Last year, nearly 3 million visitors, more than any other Lucas County institution, visited one or more of our 19 library locations, while checking out over 6.9 million items." Access to books, computers, information in general, is essential to human development. Not all households have computers or internet access. Not all households have books.
Children who do not have early access to books start falling behind in their formal education before they even start school. According to the National Institute for Literacy: The Partnership for Reading, by age three, children should be able to recognize books by their covers, they should pretend to read books, and they should understand how to hold books and how to turn their pages ("print awareness"). They should understand what words are. Even when children are only a few weeks old, they benefit from being read aloud to. Those first few years of a child's life are critical for learning to read. When children are read to often and in a positive environment, reading becomes a pleasant experience. Children learn about print, words, "book language," and the world. It's also important for young children to see others reading--newspapers, magazines, books. It helps them grasp the significance of reading. And reading IS significant.
If parents or guardians do not have access to books or if they cannot read, the children are the ones who suffer. Many libraries offer programs that can help. Or, at the very least, it costs nothing for a parent to take a child to the library. For this reason, libraries are one of the most important public institutions in this country.
But here's the thing: "Although demand and usage is high, unfortunately since 2001 state funding for public libraries has continued to drop, prompting TLCPL [Toledo-Lucas County Public Library] to spend less on materials...."
The TLCPL e-newsletter goes on to tell about the job search and computer skills programs that are available for FREE at the main branch library. This career service is highlighted with one patron's personal story. Read her story, and you'll see that public libraries clearly make a difference.
And if we're not doing something to make a positive difference (directly or indirectly) in someone's life, what are we here for?
Are you outraged yet?
On a semi-related note, I highly recommend the book Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. I read it a couple of years ago and consider it one of the most important books I've ever read. Check it out at your local library!