7.10.2010

Smack. and. Down.

Fox News in Chicago recently ran a story about the Chicago public library system. In the article, journalist Anna Davlantes questions whether libraries are really worth the taxpayer dollars it takes to run them, and if that money would perhaps be better spent elsewhere. Her question is, "So with the internet and e-books, do we really need millions for libraries?"

In order to determine how many people use the library and what they are using it for, she placed an "undercover camera" in (what turned out to be lower-traffic spot in) the library. Based on her findings, Davlantes decided that people only go to the library to use the free Internet.

Which . . . just goes to show that not only does she not use libraries, but she didn't bother to actually get any real information about the people who do. The whole article is short, poorly researched, and does nothing other than give the bunker-dwellers more blind fodder for shutting down libraries.

Only then. Then, the Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey responded with a letter that delivered the "smack. and. down." referred to in this post's title. (Which, I must tell you, is a cleaner version of what first came to me upon reading the thing, which was "b****. and. slap.")

I can't post it here, it's too long. But it is too, too, entirely too good to pass up. Seriously. Go read it right now. You have to. And then check out some of the comments because they are awesome too.

Tiny note: Dempsey references the "digital divide" in her letter, which is librarianspeak for how, more and more, access to computers & the ability to use them makes a big difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots." People are frequently required to use computers and go online in order to do things like apply for jobs or for unemployment benefits. But you are less likely to have a computer and Internet access (or to even know how to use a computer) if you are poor or unemployed. Which is how people end up at the library, because that's where they're told to go. Even though we are limited in the amount of time we can spend helping each person, at least we can help a little bit.

Also? She points out that the 74 branches of the Chicago Public Library circulated over 10 million items last year. Which leads me to point out that the 19 branches of the Salt Lake County library circulated over 15 million. So, you know, tiny boo-yah there. I'm just saying.

17 comments:

Giggles said... [reply]

I couldn't live without my libraries. The first thing we did as a family after moving to a new town growing up was always getting library cards.

And since my current main library leaves a little (lot) to be desired in the books I want to read, I've found my new mistress - Inter-Library Loan. The inventor of that needs to be sainted.

Jonathon said... [reply]

Great letter. And hooray for SLCLS. The library here in Spanish Fork doesn't even begin to compare.

lilcis said... [reply]

Seriously, I would DIE without access to a library. And yeah, e-readers. Those are great and all, but you still have to pay for the books you download. UNLESS you check out those books from the LIBRARY, and then you get to READ FOR FREE!!!

Brinestone said... [reply]

Maybe many adults use libraries for the internet access, but I know for a fact that the children's section is always hopping in every library I've been to.

Ana said... [reply]

WOW. What an extraordinarily well researched and well founded article and what a phenomenal amount of effort clearly went into weeding out these "truths" about Libraries.

Maybe she should write a book about it.

Perhaps it will be a best-selling e-book.
:P

Janssen said... [reply]

Some of these people writing library articles appear to have never actually been in a library in their LIFE.

We have a possible move coming up and if so, we'd go back to a library with only THREE holds allowed. I might die.

Z. Marie said... [reply]

In addition to the free Internet -- I'm sure there are people who depend on it, although I don't know of anyone personally -- I think a lot of people trimming their family/personal budgets also are depending on libraries for entertainment these days. Not just books but DVDs and such. People go on and on about how cheap Netflix is, and I agree. But some people need that $10 or $15 (or whatever amount) a month for necessities.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

What a great response! Hooray for public libraries!

(And hooray for my fellow librarians. :) )

emandtrev said... [reply]

Does the Fox news woman use a library? Or know anyone who uses them? Because I can think of plenty (blood boiling) of people who use libraries for waaay more than free internet, thank you very much! Great article. Thanks for sharing. Boo to the yah, indeed.

Sure I like the digital aspects of reading, but where do I go to get audio books or whatever for my iPod? Yes, that's right. The library!

Th. said... [reply]

.

Wow! Five million more than Chicago? Props.

The Atomic Mom said... [reply]

I'm very thankful for the public library system. As a child I participated in summer reading programs, the pen-pal program and so much more. Now I just like to go and read magazines and take my son to the programs they have for kids. The public library really does make a community a nicer place to live.

Katie E. said... [reply]

So, that article made me cry. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for sharing your experiences getting your MLS and being a librarian with me. I love libraries, and I love people who love libraries. I also love books, and yes, ILL is a beautiful thing. Woot.

Barefoot Cassandra said... [reply]

Pro library all the way. Whenever I move I find the nearest one. I wander around reading the backs of books, then sit and read for hours sometimes.

I find lovely BBC literary adaptations there, that I may have not otherwise heard of.

I once dated a hot librarian, who I met in the library.

Hurrah for libraries!

AmyJane said... [reply]

This morning the kids and I went to a "Storytime By The Sea," as part of the Summer Reading Program line-up of events. The presenter took the first few minutes to talk to parents about libraries and how special and unique they really are. It kind of made me cry. Seriously, I know I'm hormonal and postpartum, but there are so many, many opportunites opened up to all people as a result of having a free, well-run public library system.
I knew Sean finally understood me when during out preparation for our move to Washington, he google mapped the distance from the proposed rental house to the nearest library for me. He gets it.

Mad Hadder said... [reply]

Ms. Dempsey sounds like a class act. Libraries are the geat equilizer in a democratic society, That library disser needs to read Fahrenheit 451.

T J V said... [reply]

Three years ago when I gave birth to my son, one of my favorite surprises was a free book (Goodnight Moon) and a library card for my new little baby in my new mom bag I recieved at the hospital. As an avid life long reader, I am most proud to pass the love of the library on to my son. He looks forward to going each week to pick out new books, movies and yes play the Arthur game on the computer. And my budget sure appreciates that I can get all the books I want to read for free b/c if I didn't we would be book poor!

Th. said... [reply]

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Not really related that closely, but I wanted to be sure you wouldn't miss this.

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