Having a library card is like having a gym membership. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t use it.
There are plenty of people who come in every four years to vote in the Presidential election and they feel that they have to get a library card. Our library is an early voting site, and we have people come in that normally never go to a library. They feel that it is part of being an American to have a library card, so they sign up. Four years later, when they come in to vote again, they ask if their card is still valid. It isn’t. If you don’t use it in a couple of years it expires. So then they sign up again. Every now and then I’ll ask them if they want to go and find a book first, to see if they NEED to sign up for a card. Nope. They want to get a card. They just don’t want to use it.
Libraries are the most amazing thing ever about America. They present a free exchange of information. With a library card you can unlock any door. You can learn how to do anything. Going to the library is the best way to improve your mind and your life. It is the way out of a bad situation. It levels the playing field.
There are books at the library for everybody. Every now and then they get challenged but they usually get to stay. A book is “challenged” when someone tries to get it removed from the library. It is very hard to remove a book from the library. People don’t understand that just because they don’t like a book doesn’t mean they have the right to prevent another person from reading it. Thus, libraries have a huge variety of books to accommodate the varying needs of the community.
Yet this means nothing if they don’t use their card. What is the point of getting a library card if you don’t use it? There are plenty of countries around the world that don’t have libraries. Just being able to read is something you shouldn’t take for granted.
Plenty of people take the amazing resource that is the library for granted. If they use it at all, they will fill up on movies and fiction. That is just the icing on the cake. There is so much more to the library than this. The most amazing thing about the library is that if you want to improve your life or your community or the world, you can learn how to do it at the library. It is free to everyone.
Well, I take that back. Everybody can come in and use the library. Not everybody can check out. You have to get a library card to check out books and apparantly for some people that is very hard. The rules are slightly different for certain libraries, but in ours you have to provide proof of who you are and proof of where you live. If you live out of county, there is a fee because this library system gets its money from property taxes.
For some people, just being able to prove where they live is like pulling teeth. They will want to show their driver’s license that is from three years ago. They have moved three times since then, and not gotten the ID changed. They will point out that the address on the ID is in this county. That isn’t the point. It isn’t their current address, so it doesn’t count. Every now and then they will get huffy and say they should just have lied and said it was correct. It is very frustrating dealing with an adult who just doesn’t get the value of being honest – and the importance of having the current address on their ID.
I feel that Americans take the library and free public education for granted.
I know a lady from India who was a patron here and then went back home to India. She told me about how there were no free public libraries in India, or at least where she was. There were libraries, but you had to pay to be a member, and there weren’t that many books. Thus, people don’t really read very much.
A community that doesn’t read is a dead community.
Having a card isn’t enough. You have to use it.
If you are poor, education is the way out. Plenty of people will say that the schools are bad in their area, but this means nothing. You can have your education spoon-fed to you, or you can go hunt it down yourself. It also doesn’t matter what your local library is like. No matter what library you use, you have access to the inter-library loan system. Whatever you want, if it isn’t at your library, they can get it for you from another one. So if you don’t get a good education, the only person you have to blame is yourself.
Go get a library card. And use it. The mind you save will be your own.