Saturday, December 1, 2007

Value of the Library, A Free Life, Book Blogs

New York Public Library, Postcard Circa 1920


People sometimes wonder what the value of a library is in terms of a community. After some calculations, it costs about $30 per person in tax dollars our community to have our library. If a person checked out two hardcover books which originally cost $24.95 each, they would have saved money going to the library. For people who read many books a year or check out many videos a year, the library more than pays for itself in terms of personal savings.

If a politician wanted to justify the existence of the library, where would the librarian go first. The first place which they would go is the Job Information Center which exists in most American public libraries. It contains career books, resume books, starting a business books, test books for preparing for civil service positions or getting certified for a professional position like an EMT, nurse, real estate exam books, and usually several books on college. In other words it helps people get jobs and creates jobs by helping people start new businesses.

The newspaper section also helps people find jobs. In our library we have the Chief which lists all of the civil service positions in New York City and the Journal News which lists many local job openings. People come every day to look at the job listings.

The next obvious place they would go would be the literacy center, where there are books about learning to read for adults. Included in this are books about getting a GED-- General Equivalence Degree for high school. Many public libraries also offer some kind of remedial preparation for the GED as well.

Another purpose of the public library is to support the local schools curriculum. Both the childrens room and the young adult room specifically buy books to support the local school curriculum. The two sections that immediately stand out in the public library setting are the science experiment books and the classics. Every American public library has a section on the classics where the major works of literature are like Huckleberry Finn, Things Fall Apart, To Kill A Mockingbird and many other classics.

A major purpose of the library is self education, this means buying lots of practical every day life skills books like sewing, plumbing, personal hygiene, coaching little league, and other skills. In addition, there are large amounts of books on finance and personal finance.

Many of these books you will not find in a local bookstore. Bookstores carry titles which sell immediately. Libraries have many older books which are used regularly, but do not go out all the time. The average shelf life of a book in a bookstore is two weeks to a month. The average shelf life of a book in a library is several years.

The library creates a repository for older novels and material which are often not available in the regular bookstore. Many are out of print and cannot be ordered. This has a lot of value. You can quite often get all of the books written by a particular author, many of them which are no longer available in the bookstore. In other words, it creates a record of what people have been reading.

Also libraries keep the classics, many of which won't sell in the bookstore. Things like The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Das Kapital, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, The Prince, The Republic, The Wealth of Nations, are expected to be kept at the public library. This is an expected function of the library.

Also public libraries keep many books which bookstores have a hard time with because of censorship. The American Library Association supports the "Freedom to Read Foundation". This means that there are more protections in the library setting for books in many cases than in bookstores.
Another function which a library is supposed to help with is bridging the "digital divide". Libraries provide free computer access to many people who cannot afford to buy their own computer. This allows them to communicate using email, write resumes, write letters to their representatives and use computers which they most likely cannot afford. It provides some children their first access to computers if they don't have them at home.

There is a lot of value in the public library. It tends to more than pay for itself in terms of tax dollars because of job creation, literacy, and self eduction.
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I have read some more of Ha Jin's A Free Life. The main character has moved to New York where he first starts as a busboy then moves up to being a cook in a Chinese restaurant. He also edits a literary journal. Eventually, he leaves New York to go back to his family. The rich person decides that they should leave.
Nan, the main character then buys a restaurant in Atlanta from an older Chinese couple and the whole family moves there. This seems to reflect the real life of many Chinese people who come to the United States. They are following in the footsteps of the American dream. Eventually Nan buys a small house with his wife and child. He is working fourteen hours a day and barely has
time to focus on his interest in poetry and writing. It seems he has lost his dream to become a writer to become the "American Dream." The novel is very realistic so far.
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I finished playing Eschalon Book 1 from Basilisk Games. It was a thoroughly enjoyable independent single player roleplaying game. I am happy that they let me drop a link in their forums.
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I also spent quite a bit of time looking at two sets of links to book blogs:

3 comments:

hansu_87 said...

thanks for stopping by my blog! You have a interesting one yourself! Thanks!

We Sell It All Dicker & Deal Here said...

When I got to the part of the literacy center located in the library-well can you imagine not being able to read?-it would be like being dropped in a foreign place without a road map (that you could read of course)

Book Calendar said...

A lot of people come in for GED training. That is what it is like for them. It is even harder for the people who come and don't speak any english and are asking for books and videos on how to learn english.