The library is more important than you.

photo by flickr user jennandjon

photo by flickr user jennandjon

The library is more important than you. The library is more important than its librarians. The library is more important than the materials on its shelves, screens, and speakers. The library is more important than the buildings that house those materials. The library is more important than its director. The library is more important than the newspaper, the TV and radio stations, and all of their reporters. The library is more important than the mayor, city council, congresspersons, the governor, and every candidate for those offices. The library is more important than the state budget and the rest of its funding sources. The library is more important than Andrew Carnegie.

The library is more important, because its potential for change and growth extends beyond you, to your family, your neighbors, and your community.  The library is not just a symbol or a luxury. It is a cornerstone for an informed society to build its future. Anyone can use the library’s resources to become the next librarian, director, mayor, reporter, congressperson, governor, anything. The library is open to anyone to educate herself and her children without agenda or bias, to entertain himself with the media of his choice, to find employment, to research and read and listen and write and watch.

In my cover letter to apply for this job, I wrote, “Libraries, as a free source of unrestricted public education, are a vital part of our communities.”  Now that I work here, I know that to be true. It says right above the door: Free to the People. The library is not more important than the people. Who are the People?  That’s you.

A librarian I work with said, “Good questions are more important than answers.” A good question has the ability to stir in us a force as powerful as hunger. So ask, Pittsburgh. Make demands.  Tell the director.  Tell the papers.  Tell the mayor.  Tell the city, county and state representatives how you feel about branches closing in your neighborhood and your neighbors’ neighborhoods, what you think about library funding, how you feel about losing library workers to assist you, access to information, and hours of operation in which to access it.

And then ask yourself.  Beyond just fighting to maintain the status quo, what do you want from the library?  What does the best library you can imagine look like?

Are buildings open 8 am to 10 pm?  Do shelves stock the newest, most popular and obscure titles?  Do computers whirr and flash with the most up-to-date information, just waiting for you to hit enter?

Do Children’s Departments abound with storytimes and creative play?  Do Teen spaces overflow with engaged, excited young people?  Do event calendars list informative, cultural and educational, thought-provoking programs for everyone?

Do reference departments include the most useful resources to help you accomplish your goals?  Do desks staff energetic employees, motivated and enabled to connect you with what you seek?  Do employees have the means to pursue the latest technologies and methods to assist your search?  Do you come here to find employment, relax, and study?  Is this the place you visit to feel safe, informed, and inspired?

Do patrons feel ownership of this organization?  Are they vocal? Do they contribute their ideas and resources to supporting it?  Do they encourage their government to endorse the institution they value so much?

Is your ideal library a humming center in a vibrant community of empowered, engaged, autonomous citizens?  What has to happen for all of this to come true?  What is your part?

The library is more important than this crisis.  The library is as important as you make it.  All of this is possible.  All of this is yours for the asking.



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25 responses to “The library is more important than you.

  1. It is such a privilege to work with you, R.



  2. Don

    Yes. Yes, indeed.


  3. Jude

    Y.E.S. Thank you so much for this, coworker/friend/comrade.

  4. Holly

    This is the best message for saving the library that I have seen.
    I hope it falls on listening ears.

  5. Melissa

    Renee, this was lovely. Well written and obviously heartfelt. Excellent piece and a very important message. Thank you.

  6. Bonnie

    Thank you, Renée. Beautiful and so, so true.

  7. Rebekah

    Renee, this is a wonderful post. If it’s ok to say it here, I’m giving this an “Amen!”

  8. LC

    This is abolutely beautiful, Renée. Public libraries are not a gift, they are a right.

  9. Rick

    The university of the people. I think that going to college taught me about learning, but going to the library gives me the chance to actually do it.

  10. Richard

    To be quoted for its superbly written truth.


  11. Renee
    No one could have said this better. Excellent!

  12. Sarah

    The best library I can imagine has you in it, Renee. Thank you.

  13. Kathie

    Please send this as a letter to the editor to our local newspapers . An elegant statement such as this needs to be read by as many citizens as humanly possible. I am imagining Obama using it in a speech to a large audience – awesome and inspiring.

  14. Corey W.

    Preach it!

    Great stuff, Renee!

  15. Pingback: Teen Advocacy Day « CLPTeensburgh: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Teen Services

  16. Verna Robinson

    This says it so well. I believe the libraries are a sign of a society’s enlightenment and maturity. When we close a library, we take the next generation back a step. Shame on us!!!!

  17. Many, many, many thanks to everybody who took the time to comment. The library is so very, very lucky to have all of you supporting it!!

    Leigh Anne

  18. Karen

    Very well said, Renee. Thank you. Libraries are not a luxury, they are a necessity. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  19. Gloria Forouzan

    There are many library patrons, in neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh, who support their libraries.
    Quite a few of us reside in Lawrenceville and we are using our voices to save our neighborhood libraries.
    Email me if you’d like to get involved:

    Gloria Forouzan

  20. Hi Gloria – thank you so much for all the work you are doing. It is SO encouraging to see that so many people in Pittsburgh care about the library. I’m really hoping that we as a city can pull together and find a solution. There HAS to be a way to create sustainable library funding so that ALL the people of Pittsburgh can benefit. There just has to be. Our well-informed citizenry depends on it.

    Leigh Anne

  21. Patte

    What a wonderful rallying cry!

  22. Gloria Forouzan

    Downtown Library Rally:
    This Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, from noon – 1 at the City County bldg., Grant St., downtown Pgh.

    Bring your co workers, friends, fellow library lovers and your signs.

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