In my opinion the airy comments in last week’s Point of View, advocating for additional city funding to purportedly increase the nonfiction book stock of the Homer Public Library, are absurd. This library currently has hundreds of new nonfiction books lining the “new” book section. Last winter there were hundreds more. And probably hundreds in previous years.
And if that isn’t enough, for a nominal fee one may obtain almost any printed title through the inter-library loan program. And if that’s still not enough for you, you may check out the rich source of nonfiction and specialized books and materials available from the college library or the Pratt Museum.
Still not satisfied? Then go on-line and do research, or, for a pittance, purchase your esoteric book from Amazon.
In any case, in this modern fast-paced world, non-fiction reading — or even reading the classics of fiction — clearly takes a distant place to most users of this library. From my observations I’d say fully one-half of the library’s clients are there primarily to access the computers and the internet, and I strongly suspect that many of those users are either engaged in playing games or checking their emails/Facebook/etc. It escapes me how that translates into becoming educated.
Personally, I check out a lot of movies from the library simply because they are there and available. Unfortunately, the content of many of them is not educational, but simply a waste of my time. So charging a movie fee would force me to be more discriminating and, presumably, save on my taxes which support the library, not to mention returning that function to the free market where it belongs.
Regarding Andrew Carnegie — 100 plus years ago he promoted libraries as a basis for knowledge leading to social advancement, not entertainment.
In those days information access was extremely limited. Other than newspapers there was no other viable source of information for the edification of the general public: very few national magazines, no radio or television news or discussion programs, and — of course — no Internet.
The future will be different yet. I recently saw this comment online from Herbert: “Approaching a company such as Apple, which has vast educational and community outreach resources, would provide Homer a much richer return than filling lower shelves with outdated books and periodicals.”
With the exception of the terrible acoustics, for a small town, Homer has a fine library, well-stocked with nonfiction. The staff is good: very civil, responsive, helpful and seemingly dedicated. And I certainly don’t question the charitable impulse of the many library volunteers. But, I do question where they are being led if this article is any indication.