Are libraries worthwhile or a waste of taxpayers’ money? That’s the question a local Fox reporter investigated when she placed hidden cameras in Chicago’s Harold Washington Library. The footage showed most people using the computers, not in the stacks. As with most local news, it’s shockingly sensationalist, with pointless vox pops tossed in and, for some reason, a clip discussing libraries from “Seinfeld.”
Even worse, as library futurist Joan Frye Williams pointed out on NPR’s Here and Now, the footage of shelves was from a storage area of the library not used by patrons. Shocking.
[Side note: When did library futurist become a job? What does one do, exactly? How does one become one? Does it pay well?]
Libraries are busier than ever and are useful for job seekers, library strategist George Needham said, and offer internet access to those who cannot afford it. “Part of the library’s economic engine is helping people get jobs and start businesses,” he said. “There’s sort of this idea that a library is nothing but a warehouse of books. I think that idea went out the window years ago if it was ever true in the first place.”
“The library is not a single destination. People visit libraries as part of a round of other destinations,” Williams said. Needham upgraded libraries to two-stop destinations, once to pick up books and another to return them, something retailers located close by like.
Bottom line: cutting library funding now leads to snowballing community issues later.