The Passive Activist #5

We Americans are living with an unprecedented absence of leadership. In the Deep South, we have lived with this void for most of our history, so we’re a little more used to it than the rest of the nation— but that doesn’t make it OK. In the face of Congressional deadlock, soaring national debt, secular/religious strife, rogue policy actions by state legislatures, mistrust of the police, declines in public education funding, exorbitant college costs, internet predators and trolls, crumbling labor unions, global warming, and too many choices at the optician, the Passive Activist series offers ideas for how ordinary people can create and implement positive change in our own lives. Movements are made up of people.

#5. Support and patronize public libraries

Today, with broadband internet, wireless hot spots, and 4G LTE service, many of us can access any information any time. But all people aren’t so fortunate. For many people, the resources in public libraries offer their only access to searchable information, including through the internet. Let’s be honest, if a person is struggling to afford adequate food, clothing, and shelter, having a broadband connection or a smart phone isn’t a priority, and as smart phones get more and more sophisticated, pricing and other factors limit access to those. In an information society, public libraries are a leveling force.

Libraries are no longer the places where an old lady with a bun shushed you for giggling with your friends. The American Library Association recently published a new report titled “After Access: Libraries and Digital Empowerment”, which acknowledges that they are there “to help people harness the transformative power of digital information to support education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and engagement—or The E’s of Libraries.” And the Libraries Transform program is working to move these institutions forward, too.

The Institute of Museum and Library Service’s annual report for Fiscal Year 2012 – the most recent year for which a report is available – also confirms the benefits of libraries:

Public libraries provide learning and information resources for individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. In their role as community anchor institutions, they create opportunities for people of all ages through access to collections and technology. Public libraries support community improvement by providing programming that addresses the health, education, and workforce development needs of local residents. Libraries are places where people can gain assistance with research and information needs from knowledgeable library staff. In communities across the nation, local public libraries complement commercial development activity and provide attractive neighborhood amenities in residential settings.

Access to information through public libraries is essential to American democracy. To my understanding, that most American of folk idols, Ben Franklin, started America’s first lending library, because he understood that. We all should, too.

To find a library near you, click here.

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