We need more libraries and not for the books

Ellie Grecul, Opinion Editor

Our campus library is not, by any means, an unfrequented place, yet many would agree that libraries as a species are on a pathway to extinction. Think, really think, about the last time you actually witnessed someone stroll into our library, browse the selection of books, pluck a spine off the shelves, and check it out. Those who regularly borrow books from the campus are a rare breed, and while they may be passionate advocators of the physical book trade, theyíre quickly being overwhelmed by the age of the digital device.

There is nothing held within the contents of a library that the Internet does not also hold. Year by year, the wealth of information held at our fingertips grows, creating an infinite well of information that grows and adds to itself ad infinitum. This creates a universal rhetorical question among those of the modern age: ìWhy would I get into my car, drive to my local library, look for a book that would contain the information I need, check it out, read through it to find what I need, then drive back in two weeks to return it when I can literally just Google this right now.î

There just isnít any need to drive to the library for sources for your research paper when there are databases online, readily available and leagues more convenient; there just isnít any need to drive to the library to win your argument with your friends over who played that one hairdresser in I Love Lucy. And leisure reading? Leisure readers arenít as scarce; I myself identify as one, but when bookstores are shinier, more colorful, and generally just more enjoyable to visit (I canít think of the last library I visited where I could buy a macchiato while I get comfy with a new book), and when eBooks are a very real thing, the library seems completely and utterly irrelevant.

That being said, consider the following: From 2012 to 2015, the number of adults who visited a library only fell by about 10%, according to the Pew Research Center. And our local libraries are alive and well in Suntree and Eau Gallie. Itís a decrease for sure, and has probably decreased more to the current year of 2018, but itís not as sizable a dip as some might expect.

The answer, and the reason libraries arenít dying, is in the word ìcommunity.î

You may not see students checking out books all too often at the Holy Trinity library, but itís frequently bustling with activity whenever thereís free time away from class; friends gather at tables to chat, middle schoolers get scolded as they band together to play games on the computers, and students bond over mutual stress as they scurry to finish and print out assignments at the last minute.

And on a more macrocosmic scale, local libraries provide subtle but powerfully important communal ties. For one thing, for families that arenít as financially well-off as most of those who are able to afford Holy Trinity, the library provides an obvious, yet underappreciated, resource for those who have a desire to read, and to learn about the world.

And libraries frequently contain preserved artifacts of a communityís history. It might also be a place for those quiet, reserved introverts amongst us to find and form friendships with like-minded people.

Whatís more is a libraryís incredible ability to foster and protect diversity. Consider the immigrant who barely speaks English, has no money, and is scared or embarrassed to ask for help in a country that lets them know that there are some people who hate them just for being there. A library provides a quiet, private place where they can read as much as they need for as long as they need to help with English or with becoming situated in American society. Consider the gay teenager who doesnít feel safe to come out to their parents but has access to resources at the local library, or the group of women part of a black empowerment movement who are in need of a calm yet open and public space to meet and discuss goals.

A library provides all the books of a bookstore without the loud, flashy commercialism, all the opportunities for community involvement of a townís community center without the commitment of having to join a local club, and a classic, old-time atmosphere connecting you to a history that you donít really get in a bookstore as ostentatious as the modern Barnes & Noble.

And for those reasons, no matter how much our generation takes to eBooks and bookstores, libraries, at least in the foreseeable future, arenít going anywhere.