Anyone who is familiar with the library world knows that libraries have recently faced a number of budgetary challenges. In the United States, this has manifested in shorter hours and reduced staff. You are also probably aware that in the United Kingdom, libraries have been systematically closed. An article by Amelia Dimoldenberg specifies that in the last six years, the United Kingdom has closed 350 libraries, and another 111 are slated for closure next year. The reason is due to “drastic cuts to local authority spending.” This is indeed a troubling trend. It has resulted in the loss of eight thousand library jobs, and the slow elimination of “freely accessible community spaces.” Despite the closures, U.K. patrons still need their local libraries. Not only do patrons use libraries for homework help and job searches, but they act as community hubs that foster education and learning. Libraries also serve the same purpose here in the States.
Around the globe, libraries help educate their communities. In order to determine “what place libraries have in the modern world,” Dimoldenberg asked London library users why they visit the library. She discovered an eighteen-year-old student who uses the library as a quiet place to study, a recent immigrant who uses the library to improve his English, and a little girl who wants to learn as much as she can. All of these patrons’ stories prove the value of libraries. Though they have differing needs, the library fulfills each one. This is why it is a terrible shame that local authorities are shuttering libraries. Yes, in difficult financial times, services have to be cut. But it is a wonder to me how educating citizens is considered a luxury. Take for example the wave of immigrants into Europe. Where else can the man in Dimoldenberg’s article go to learn English? If people are to integrate successfully, how can they be expected to do so when few institutions remain to help them achieve that? And where will the little girl who loves learning go; how will she learn to participate in society at large once she reaches adulthood? By closing these libraries, money may be saved now, but the long-term damage to society is far greater.