Opinion | Support your local libraries


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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main in Oakland.

By Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

I currently have six books checked out from the Carnegie Library, all stacked up under my night stand in an everlasting to-be-read pile. I have saved approximately $132 by heading to my local library rather than ordering them on Amazon, which I typically would have done. I have the app Libby, an app to download audiobooks straight from the library onto my phone. Even while writing this column, I sat in the Carnegie Library taking advantage of the beautiful space and free Wi-Fi that the library provides. 

I am not the only one who takes advantage of my local library — they are essential to every community they interact with. Local libraries are one of the best places to find books and use services for essentially no cost, but many people seem to not take advantage of these amazing services, and our government wants to slash funds that help keep these wonderful institutions alive and running. 

Libraries are one of the best places to encourage kids from an early age to get involved in reading and find what kind of books they like. In middle school, I would head to the library near my school to do homework, but more importantly, to find books to read. I fell in love with reading by having this local access to books that were essentially free. Many libraries even have programming to encourage kids to read. Our local and main branch of the Carnegie Library recently had an event full of fun activities for kids to encourage them to read during the summer. 

Having the opportunity to check out books, films, e-books, audiobooks and many more crucial learning materials for no cost is such a radical and essential service that no place like a library provides. There is an emphasis on spending money in every other institution but libraries encourage you to explore and learn without having to spend a cent. Libraries are a place where people can meet up with friends and talk, where kids can gather after school without having to spend money, and most importantly, libraries are a quiet and free place to take a load off and read a book. 

The free internet access that local libraries provide has become even more crucial in the past ten years or so. Nearly 19 million Americans — or 6% of the country’s population — do not have stable internet access. As schools and jobs rely more and more on people having stable internet access to complete homework or work outside of the office, having the space to do these tasks for free is essential for many low-income Americans. For many, this free internet access can also help them find a job or research a topic they need to without spending money on home internet access.

Libraries also have one of the most helpful resources of all — librarians. Librarians have degrees in research, and they know how to use tools and resources that the average person does not. They know what books to look for and what information to dig up on any number of topics. If you are writing a paper for school or looking into how to fix up your home, librarians are a valuable resource who are often overlooked. 

Libraries also provide events for people in the community to interact, learn skills and dive deeper into their interests. The Carnegie Library has events coming up like a session that discusses the importance of voting, a dance class for toddlers and an eyeglasses clinic for children — all completely free. Many libraries also provide classes to teach the elderly how to use technology or teach people how to write up a resume — both essential skills that everyone in our modern world needs.

These free services have been neglected by the public, leading to a cutting of funds for libraries. Local libraries — just like seemingly everything else — were hit hard by the pandemic. 251 libraries in Ohio have been closed down in 2021 due to a lack of funding since their state budget slashed taxes that went towards keeping the library afloat. In New Orleans, library budgets were slashed by 40% in 2020. This is dangerous since libraries are essential to freely dispense knowledge and are a way to keep education less and less class divided — something that is becoming extremely prevalent as the price of college education has risen exponentially and the disparity between public schools in wealthier versus poorer areas widens

Local libraries are essential to making communities work, yet their importance has been overlooked in the age of the internet. Next time you have a chance, take a stroll through your library, find some new things to read or just chat with a librarian — I guarantee it will make a difference on you and your community. 

Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and how lame antisemites are. Write to her at [email protected].