The Close of Libraries or The Close of an Educated Era?
This article traces the decline of the library system and its indications.
Part of living in a town is having access to its amenities. State and municipal budget cuts in New Jersey have put services such as libraries for our residents in jeopardy. All people living in New Jersey should be vigilant about their concerns for their statewide neighbors.
Libraries across the state of New Jersey have already been closed; this has occurred predominantly in inner cities, where libraries are most needed. Libraries serve as an environment conducive to work providing a safe and organized facility. Recently, Newark and Trenton have closed library branches and it is now presumed that Camden will soon follow. I find it disturbing that citizens of our state capitol are unable to access a local branch of the library system. In fact, the closing of library branches in the state capitol is a poor indictor for the state of New Jersey.
Doug Poswencyk has been the director of the Watchung Public Library for twenty years and he is a staunch advocate for maintaining library services. He states, “I have always felt that one of the primary functions of a public library is to serve as the community center. In addition to providing information, popular materials in a variety of formats, internet access and programs which are both educational and entertaining, the library provides a place for people to gather. It’s a place for adults, children and especially teens. Libraries are a place where teens can go to have fun and to learn in a safe environment. Libraries are especially important to teens that do not have computers and internet access at home.”
When a library closes, the employees of the library are affected as well as the residents and potential residents. If a teen does not have a library readily available to them, it becomes a burden for them to go to a library in a neighboring town. When state and local budgets work to maintain a library, they are making an investment. A library encourages students to have good study habits and allows teens to access a mass of information which can lead to better test scores. New Jersey places such an emphasis on education that we should always consider how a library leads to overall knowledge and intellectual ability.
Poswencyk also recognizes the needs of inner city residents and acknowledges recent closures. “I like to think of the public library as the great equalizer. Regardless of one’s financial status, everyone receives the same quality service. In tough economic times such as the present we need libraries more than ever. All libraries are suffering through these times but the libraries that are taking the hardest hit are the municipal ones, especially those in urban communities where hours have been cut and even branches closed due to budget cuts.” Inner city areas always seem to be underserved in terms of education and amenities and the closing of libraries only leads to this vicious cycle.
In June of 2007, a survey was taken of New Jersey residents which revealed general support for the continued success of our library system. 95% of people surveyed said public libraries help people learn new things no matter what their age. In addition, 71% believed that a public library is an essential service for the community – not a cultural amenity. Community libraries should not become a thing of the past; they must remain a vital part of New Jersey towns and cities as they provide for enhanced social and educational opportunities.