by: Joelle Charbonneau
Most writers I know are readers first. I am. I loved reading long before I even dreamed of being a writer. Some writers can tell you exactly which book or author made them fall in love with reading. Some can even tell you which author inspired them to write their own books. I have no idea which author grabbed me first or which one made me think – wow, I want to do that! But I can tell you where I learned to love reading.
My local library.
Every summer when I was growing up, you could find me at least once or twice a week at the Bensenville Public Library. The librarians loved that I wanted to read. They even gave me a lot of great suggestions as to what I should be reading next. When I was in high school I would sometimes check out 8-10 books a week and plow through them all. I discovered books in genres I might not have ever thought to read on my own. I didn’t love them all, but I was always glad that I read them. Within the library walls I also read plays, listened to musical recordings and looked up information on colleges.
If not for my local library and the love of books that I found there I would never have taken the leap to writing books of my own. A great deal of my life was shaped by the experiences I had at the library. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without them. And now, as an adult, I find myself truly honored when a librarian recommends my book. How cool is that?
Libraries are an essential part of our towns. They introduce children to books. They provide internet service to those who can’t afford computers and help those out of work search for jobs. They are a meeting place for community groups. They provide musical and theatrical programming. They… Well, the list goes on and on.
Because our educational system is in crisis (which our own Dave White can tell you a lot about) the libraries find their services even more in demand. Circulation and computer usage is way up – especially in rural or more depressed areas. Communities need their libraries and yet their budgets are being slashed. Almost every state is looking to cut their budgets by between 15-50%. Although in some instances this amount is higher. In Texas, the state government is looking to cut library funding by 80%.
For some reason our government seems to undervalue the importance of libraries. I, for one, have contacted my representatives to let them know that I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t recognize the importance of a community center that is filled with books, music, newspapers, computers and a staff that is passionate about sharing them. So you can imagine my delight when ITW launched the Save The Libraries campaign a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t know about it make sure to check it out. Their first event and on-line auction was last night and I am hoping it was a resounding success. This is the first of many events and I am hopeful that the financial assistance and the public awareness the events draw will help our libraries survive and flourish.
We need our local libraries. I’m hoping you’ll join with me in talking to your local congressmen and senators or spreading the word about Save The Libraries. Let’s make sure the important of our libraries is not overlooked.