Conversation at a recent Friends meeting was still animated after nearly 3 hours. Someone asked if we felt our town selectmen really “got it”. This ignited a short recitation of the material losses we’d suffer from a library closure. Then one person raised her voice slightly above the conversation to say “Hey, hey – it’s not about the books.” In the moment of startled silence she added, “we’re not here until 9:00 because we won’t be able to get books.” Everyone smiled or chuckled with intuitive understanding.
Scholars have traced early libraries back thousands of years—to a time when clay tablets were products of a digital revolution. Civilized societies have endowed and preserved their libraries through countless fiscal crises, demographic shifts and distruptive technologies. Why?
This is the question library advocates need to reflect upon. We must explicate the insight shared among the West Boylston Friends. We must reaffirm the values that countless global generations have nurtured and perpetuated via their public libraries. And then we must adapt our institutions to continue their vital missions using the many resources available to us.