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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

OP-ED: Save public libraries

Photo by Photo courtesy of Rosie Stone
Milwaukee Public Library offers a plethora of research materials along with computer access to the community.

Located in the center of town, my family and I would go weekly to our public library and check out various books, audiobooks, videos and even music. I remember attending events including concerts, some book talks and many other community gatherings. 

More than a decade later, I still love visiting my hometown library and exploring other libraries while visiting new places. But soon that might not be possible as public libraries across the country are facing budget cuts and even permanent closure.  

Besides the obvious books and videos, libraries provide computer access, printing/scanning, internet, educational resources and other various programs. These resources that are made easily available to the public make libraries important for those in that do not have access to certain technology and information.  

Another huge benefit of public libraries is the shelter they provide for those who are unhoused.  Especially during the cold season, libraries are well-known institutions in which people can rely on to take refuge. Some libraries even offer special services for those who are unhoused, like Brown County Public Library located in Green Bay. This library offers social service providers to make sure people’s needs are met including mental health, food insecurity, domestic violence issues and other basic needs.   

Yet as visits to libraries across the nation have steadily been declining, this leads to less federal aid given to the libraries, which can be detrimental to the people who use them frequently. Tim Coates, a London-based author, and library advocate has made clear that U.S. public libraries are in that decline. Coates led a consumer survey, “Where Did You Get That Book?” in which he found, “the U.S. has [had] a fall of 31% in public library building use over eight years, up to 2018.”   

Without these institutions, it can be difficult for low-income people and anyone in the community to receive the necessary resources to live.   

In addition to the decline, libraries have recently started to face another problem: the pulling of certain books from shelves. This is rooted from local governments trying to censor minority communities including the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, indigenous cultures and others. Various forms of state and local government including the governor, mayor and library boards can be responsible for these acts that are viewed as exclusive to people. 

We need to start advocating and utilizing libraries more to save them from danger. 

With libraries across the nation currently in jeopardy, it is important and necessary for us to know how we can save them to ensure everyone has equal access to educational resources.  

One way we can save the public libraries is to utilize them more. This can be done by such a simple task as checking out a book or movie or visiting your local library. We also need to gain more government support on the local, state and federal levels to get the libraries back on their feet. This can be done by calling your representative or contacting your local town council.  

For some, a visit to the public library might not be needed, but for others, it can be a necessity. Libraries should be a public space that is inviting to the community, not one that excludes people. One should think about utilizing libraries more to enhance the resources these institutions can provide.

This story was written by Rosie Stone. She can be reached at [email protected].

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