How important is our public library in the age of the Internet?
Decatur is about to find out.
The Decatur Public Library will close Nov. 21 for heating/air conditioning repairs that could last deep into January. The library will open a small, temporary branch in Decatur Mall, but for two months or more, this city of 55,000 will have no full-service library.
Some say that’s not a big deal. Libraries have been pooh-poohed for almost a decade as increasingly irrelevant because of growing Internet access.
Critics cite governmental deficits and library costs to conclude that we’re wasting money.
We beg to differ — in part because of the Internet age, not despite it.
The library offers Internet access that is free and hard to come by for many users. Those who live on a budget especially recognize the bounties of their library, as well as the shortcomings when it is underfunded. Decatur’s library is underfunded.
The Internet has had a monumental impact in society, and resources other than the library are plentiful. But to draw the conclusion that the library is irrelevant, we believe, is a dire mistake.
Many local governments around the country are investing more in their libraries — building new facilities, investing in supplies and services, even salaries. That may sound surprising, considering all the financial worries we face. Then again, this is the information age — and no one provides information quite like a good library.
We want ours back, and it hasn’t even closed yet.
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