When I planned today’s topic, the war had not begun in Ukraine. When I wrote the rough draft, the people of Ukraine were not fleeing for their lives. What has happened in the last month put the topic of public libraries in a whole new light.
National Public Radio (NPR) here in the United States reported this week that libraries in Ukraine are doing what libraries do. Just as historic statues are being sand-bagged and stained-glass windows in 13th century churches are being covered in metal shields, the library staffs and volunteers are working around the clock to save what they can. Irreplaceable library items and collections are being taken to other countries for safe keeping.
According to this NPR report, https://www.npr.org/2022/03/09/1085220209/ukraine-libraries-bomb-shelters, libraries there are offering classes on making camouflage and are serving as bomb shelters. It’s what libraries do when push comes to shove.
I can’t image living in such a situation as the Ukrainians are dealing with. A couple of months ago, they were working, playing, going to school, eating in restaurants, going shopping, and enjoying the benefits of libraries. Today they are fighting for their very lives and the survival of their democracy.
My library experience
It’s odd how some months I read quite a few books and some months I read only one or two. I couldn’t afford to purchase most of those books, so how did a I manage to read so much?
I have two free public library systems to thank for all of them. Before you say, “Public libraries aren’t free; I pay for those libraries and their books with my tax dollars,” I agree; however, regardless of your tax status or how much or how little you pay in taxes, you can use those libraries.
In the big scheme of things, only a few of your tax dollars are earmarked for public libraries. When you want or need to use the vast resources of your public library, it doesn’t cost you one cent.
I have access to the public library system in the county in which I live. A few years ago, my sister and I paid $100 to have lifetime household access to the library system in the adjacent county in which we used to live. It’s the best $100 we ever spent. Some adjacent counties have reciprocal agreements. You might want to check into that.
If you despair of paying local property tax, just pretend that all your tax dollars go to support the public libraries in your city or county. When local government funds get tight, the library system is usually the first service to bite the dust.
We saw library hours drastically cut during The Great Recession, and it took longer for operations to get back to normal than it did for the doors to be locked almost overnight.
In my county, at least, each branch manager can tell you how many people come through the doors and how many books are checked out every month. The director of the public library system uses those statistics every May and June to prove to the county commissioners how important the library system is. The more the commissioners know how much the system is being used, the harder it will be for them to cut library budgets.
A library card is free. All you need is proof of residency to get one. The public library has computers for the public to use, newspapers for you to read, books in various formats for you to check out, magazines for you to read on-site and sometimes to check out, and music CDs for you to borrow.
Most public library branches offer programs for adults and children and classes you can take. For instance, a few years ago I took a free course about Excel at my local library. The library is also a good, safe, public place for your child to meet with a tutor.
I borrow e-books, borrow books on CD, download books on MP3, borrow large print books, and regular print books. I borrow past issues of magazines. I borrow music CDs. I attend programs and get to hear authors speak (or did before the pandemic.) There are reference books I can use on site. I can do research and read microfilmed records in the local history/genealogy room.
If your hobby is genealogy, but you prefer not to pay for a subscription to a service such as Ancestry.com, inquire about it at your local public library. The one in my town has an Ancestry.com membership that’s free to the public. Through it, you can access all US Census records that have been released as public information.
If you aren’t taking advantage of your local public library, please remedy that immediately! While you’re there, see if it has a copy of my book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, on the shelf. If it doesn’t, ask if it can be added to the collection. Did you know you can do that? You can inquire in person at your local branch or you can probably submit a request through your library’s website. There are no guarantees, but such requests will be given consideration by the library system’s administrators.
Free public libraries help to “level the playing field.” We need more of that in this time when the gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” seems to be widening.
Where else can you get all that and more?
Never, never, never take public libraries for granted!
Since my last blog post
Do you ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you were busy but when Friday rolls around you can’t remember anything you accomplished? That sounds like me last Friday when I sat down to type this paragraph.
I didn’t work on my novel like I should have or planned to do, but I made a lot of progress on the old graveyard photography project I mentioned in last Monday’s blog post.
I’ve also been taking pictures of items my sister and I have that belonged to our parents or grandparents. We’re adding them to a photo album we’ve dedicated to such items in which we write the history of each item so future generations that end up with them will know where they came from. It will be up to future generations to decide what to keep and what to discard, but at least they’ll know why each item held importance to us.
I also did some cross-stitching and college basketball watching. After all, it was the first week of “March Madness” in the United States.
Until my next blog post
Keep checking out library books! I hope you have a good one to read this week.
Find time for a hobby.
Read newspapers, listen to NPR, and watch reputable news broadcasts on TV. Don’t shy away from watching the news because “it’s all bad” or you “don’t want to see that.” You owe it to yourself and your fellow residents of your country and this world to keep up with current events.
I cringe every time someone tells me they don’t watch the news – like someone did last week. Just because you choose not to be aware of what’s happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening.