By KEVEN WISE, teacher in New London
Dear Gov. Strickland:
Upon entering the public library here in New London, I was presented with a flier bearing some very disturbing news. I am specifically using the word disturbing here because at present, I can think of no other adjective to describe my feelings about the proposal to cut the Public Library Fund. This news is disturbing to me both personally and professionally. The losses that not only I, but the entire community will feel and have to endure are devastating. Now, one who does not frequent the public libraries in their communities or participate in the library's programs would most likely call the above statements a bit overdramatic. I will tell you now, and attempt to explain in this letter, that nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, personally, the possibility of losing the New London Public Library disturbs me because the loss of a public library is a loss of countless opportunities for the people of this community. If this proposal comes to fruition, you take from us the opportunity to explore other worlds both real and fictitious; to get lost in them, to live in them for a time, and most importantly, to learn from them. What a wonderful time I had being lost in the world of Jasper Fford's Thursday Next Series, becoming a literary detective, and solving some of the most outrageous crimes literature has ever seen.
You will also take away a person's opportunity to escape. Escaping to other worlds, be it through film, music, or books is something every person at any age needs. We need a break from the real world every now and then. The library gives us that break. Every time I begin to worry about whether or not my house in Virginia will ever sell, I grab a DVD from the library (just watched The Wrestler), or crank up some music on the way to work (getting through The Doors' entire catalog at the moment), or grab a book (reading McCammon's Queen of Bedlam). All of this I can do at my public library. And you know what the best part is? It is all free. The movies, the books, the music -- all free. Tell me that, with the economy the way it is, communities do not need this service. The public library gives the children of unemployed parents the opportunity to obtain the latest books, view the latest films, and listen to the latest music, and surf the Internet at absolutely no cost. We need this. This keeps us connected to the world and disconnects us from it when we need it.
On a professional level is where I stand to lose the most if this proposal goes through. I am a teacher, and like many teachers, I work for a school that does not have a lot of money. My school can not afford to buy me new classroom sets of novels every time I need or want them. Through the public library, I can virtually get as many copies of whatever I need for my students. This is all made possible though the SEO Consortium and the CLEVENET system. When I wanted my students to participate in a medieval cross curriculum project, because of my public library, I was not limited to what was collecting dust in the closets or not participating in the project due to lack of novels for the students. I simply went to my public library and through the consortiums I was able to have 100 copies of "Catherine, Called Birdy" for my students in a little over a week. Imagine the possibilities available to educators if the public library was able to allocate 100 copies of a novel for me in about a week. And the best part is it's all at no cost to myself, my school, or my students. Can you imagine if I had to ask the school or parents of students for funding every time I found something new and exciting to share with them? Every time I found a great new novel or wanted to provide the most up to date books for research? What about the student who needs a large print edition or the book on CD to listen to? What about the ESL student who needs a copy in Spanish? If I have to ask for that money to provide those opportunities, they vanish. Again, we need our public libraries.
Very rarely do I speak for others, but in some instances, as I taught my journalism students this past year, some one needs to stand up and give a voice to the voiceless. I guess it is my turn to do this, so I say, with as much sincerity and conviction as possible, we need our public libraries.
If you have not been to your public library recently, or just haven't taken advantage of all of the programs and opportunities it has to offer, stop in. Ask for a tour. Check out the latest bestseller or DVD. Grab some music to listen to.
Do it now, because the disturbing fact is, after June 30 you may not be able to anymore.