Never too broke for books in the neighborhoods

April 16, 2010
By

I heard Mayor Thomas Menino on the radio talking about libraries. He said, “Neighborhoods aren’t about buildings. They’re about people.”

Huh? The least of what describes libraries is buildings. Nearly 400 people didn’t pack the lecture hall of Boston’s main branch library because they want to preserve a building. Is the mayor implying that one’s neighbors will read to your children? Will they buy you books if you’re laid off? Take in your elderly parents during the day? Let your kids use their computer if you can’t afford one?

How many folks making our budget cuts grew up relying on the library? How many of them realized that after school, the library is often the only safe place in the world? How many have been old and lonely and had the library as their sole source of entertainment.

On Goodreads.com, a popular book site, they have book giveaways. Looking at the five giveaways ending soonest, there are almost 5,000 people competing to win copies of these five books.

Seems to me that people want to read and learn.

Are we consigning our struggling neighbors to television to meet their social needs? Because your neighbors and my neighbors (And I have terrific neighbors.) are not planning to provide pre-school story hours, newspaper reading rooms or lending libraries.

Books are the backbone of culture. Our elders and poor aren’t walking around with Whispernet, downloading books onto their Kindles.

Is Boston too broke to let our poorer neighbors learn? Because it’s not the rich, the children of the rich or the solidly middle-class who need libraries in order to read, use the computer, research, have a warm and safe place to peruse the newspaper, have a destination for the elders, look for a job, meet other toddlers and explore the world outside their neighborhood. It’s the poor. It’s the working class. It’s anyone and everyone who struggles.

If neighborhoods are people, then the people need a place to gather. Please protect our libraries.

Randy Susan Meyers
Jamaica Plain

The writer is the author of “The Murderer’s Daughters,” a novel recently released by St. Martin’s Press.