Rejoice, dear reader. You have been spared — for at least three months — from my recurring dissertations on all things “13,” even though today is obviously Friday the 13th. Instead, I’m swayed by a public service announcement about April 8-14 being National Library Week.
“Do you love the internet but don’t like paying for it?” an announcer proclaimed. “Then you’ll love your local library.”
Perhaps you had concluded that libraries, along with printed newspapers, are on the endangered species list thanks to the World Wide Web. I beg to differ on both counts. However, I am concerned about the assertion that Americans are losing their ability to read in depth. More on that in the future.
First observed in 1958, National Library Week is sponsored each April by the American Library Association and libraries across the country. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries — school, public, academic, and special — participate.
For decades, serious thinkers have expressed concerns over research showing that Americans are reading less. To help counter distractions that included television and movies, the National Book Committee was formed in 1954 and Library Week followed in 1958.
If you haven’t visited Brownwood Public Library, its Local History and Genealogy Annex, or Howard Payne University’s Walker Memorial Library lately, it’s been too long. These are not your fathers’ libraries. Library patrons in this community are well served in a variety of ways by the personnel and the resources available here.
I visit the Annex more than the other two, so I stopped by the main location of Brownwood’s public library on Carnegie this week for some column reconnaissance. In case you didn’t know, the interests of all age levels are being addressed, including story hours for children as young as 18 months. There’s much more, but I can’t even begin to list them all in the space I’ve been allotted here.
The purpose of my visit was not to find a particular book, or to use one of the online computers, or to do research on local history. I was simply browsing. The periodicals corner has been a favorite of mine for decades, and it was a frequent destination when I needed to clear my head for a few minutes while working across the street at the Bulletin.
Sharing some of that space with periodicals is an impressive collection of movies on DVD. I didn’t see my personal favorite there, but a runner-up candidate — Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” — was available. Probably, my first choice “Blazing Saddles” was already checked out by another devoted fan. Maybe I should get on the waiting list.
The point is, you don’t have to be a student or a researcher to find something to like at the library.
Librarians often suffer unfairly with geek stereotypes, although that’s not always the case. But even if it is, being a nerd is admirable in today’s digital era. National Library Week promotional materials remind us that librarians have long been trailblazers when it comes to issues like equity of access and intellectual freedom. Beyond that, their services and expertise help lead people to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life through education.
You don’t know what you’re missing — and you don’t know what you don’t know — until you visit a library. Make that a priority.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.