Libraries have been a big part of my education since elementary school, when I regularly checked out books from the libraries at Cleveland Court and Southwest elementaries in my home town, Lakeland, Florida. I also recall getting my parents to buy me some books at the annual Scholastic “book fairs” at those schools.
In high school, I researched and wrote several papers via the resources of the Lakeland Public Library, still located on the shores of the beautiful Lake Morton, home to a family of nesting swans and the annual Mayfaire by-the-Lake art festival.
There, at age 14 or 15, I checked out one of my earliest “real jazz” albums, a vinyl (of course) copy of Miles Davis’s “Milestones.” I distinctly recall listening to the record, and then asking my Lakeland High School band director, Ron Wilder, why Miles made so many “mistakes.”
(BTW, Ron remains a first-class trumpeter, and he played on two tracks on the 2016 CD release by my band, Acme Jazz Garage).
Books, of course, can open doors for kids, particular those for whom buying a book might be out of the question.
“A kid who thinks critically and reads” can go far in life,” as bestselling author Karin Slaughter said Saturday at Bouchercon, the huge annual crime/mystery fiction conference, this year held in St. Petersburg. Someone who develops those skills will have the opportunity to find a job, and contribute to society.
“It’s so much cheaper to give a kid a book than to imprison him for the rest of his life,” said Slaughter, founder of the Save the Libraries project. The initiative has raised more than $300k for the DeKalb County (Georgia) Library Foundation. She writes about her fight for libraries here.
“According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community,” according to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, writing for the New York Times.
” … in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed.”
All of this is to say that … public libraries are important. Get a library card today — or renew yours if it has expired.
Support libraries when and where you can.