As outlined in this recent article from Reuters, libraries are becoming true community resources when faced with the homelessness that plagues over 600,000 Americans. When one patron suffering from homelessness was asked how often he frequents the library, he replied “”Always. I have nowhere else to go. When it’s hot, you come here to stay out of the heat. When it’s cold, you come here to stay out of the cold.”
What other public institution offers classes to young mothers and their babies, a selection of local history, tech support groups, book clubs, exercise classes, your favorite crime bestsellers, and programs to help people get back on their feet after hard times? These are obviously just a smattering of what is available in a public library; the list of everything offered there is actually far larger, and changes and adapts based on individual community needs.
I passed by the the public library in Amsterdam, New York today . Above the door the words “Free to all” are carved in stone. When people ask me if I think libraries are still relevant, I always say of course – libraries are public spaces that foster independent thinking and support community members whatever stage or station they occupy . An America in which these spaces are no longer relevant is one that I hope I never see.