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Jun. 30 2010 - 6:25 pm | 228 views | 1 recommendation | 4 comments

Stupid Question of the Day: Do we still need libraries?

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You may think you’ve seen it all, but you really haven’t until you’ve seen this horrid “investigative” report by Chicago’s Fox affiliate, covering the all-important question of the day: Do we need libraries?

The “report” swerves between overwhelmingly terrible and hilarious. At one point, they use an “undercover” camera to spy on local people at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library. A local anti-tax spokeperson says we have the internet and paperbacks, so why do we need libraries?

Because not everyone has the internet, you fools, or even a computer. Those things cost money, and not everyone has it these days. Why are library attendance and borrowing rates on the rise? Because people need those things and they don’t have the cash to get them.

Forty percent of Chicagoans have little or no access to the internet, and 25 percent have no access at all. For these people, libraries are one of the only places that they can use the internet for free. As more and more services move online, the internet is becoming a vital resource. Want to get an apartment? These days, craigslist is the only place to look. Paying a bill or checking your bank account? Searching for a job? Need to apply for food stamps? You need the internet.

In addition, community libraries are a safe place where kids and families can go, something that’s not easy to find in many communities. Altgeld Gardens, a low-income public housing development on the far South Side, is still struggling without a library.

With the city, state and the federal government strapped for cash, I suppose everything’s on the table when it comes to cutting funding. But libraries? Really, Fox news? Those of us who have regular internet access forget that many, many people don’t and libraries are their only lifeline in an increasingly digital world.

The Reader’s Whet Moser said it best:

Did you know that they cost money that could be used for other things? Did you know there’s the Internet? And paperbacks?

Did you know that if you were at the Harold Washington Library the other day that someone at Fox News may have been filming you with a hidden camera to figure out if people are USING THE LIBRARY?

Did you know we’re doomed?


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  1. collapse expand

    Encouraging- I linked to the Fox “story” and read the comments there. There were around 40 of them, and every single one of them objected to the story. Not one comment in favor of the reporter’s anti-library screed. Maybe, the free-market types are finally starting to generate some blowback, maybe people are beginning to have had enough. (Speaking of “free-markets”, how much impact would stopping library purchases have on the publishing industry? A lot, I bet.)

  2. collapse expand

    Does Fox see rampant public literacy as interfering with their business model?

    Our libraries do the best they can with their extremely limited funding. Ours is highly active in the community, considering how little money they have to work with. Librarians in some communities are almost social workers, helping people put together resumes and learn how to use the web in job searches and other government web sites, something the state should contribute much more to. Not to mention the public literacy programs they’re involved with.

  3. collapse expand

    people need to read alot to learn and most of us can’t afford so many books
    that is why they were started
    Good post!

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

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