Why You Should Support Your Library

Library Discussion

Occasionally when budget time rolls around, people begin debating the value of contributing tax dollars to the local public library and, indeed, some towns around my hometown have withdrawn their support for the library or begun to discuss doing so.  That is, these towns will no longer give tax money to the area library so their residents can access it free.  Instead, their residents will have to pay for a card if they want one.  (From what I’ve seen at various libraries, such a card runs about $40 a year.)

Of course, library usage is not technically free.  But if I recall correctly, someone commented that they were paying $10 a year in taxes to use the neighboring library.  I believe that this year my county’s contribution was something $15 a year per taxpayer.  If I were to buy one book or one movie, I would already be paying more than $15.  So, in the end, yes, the library is essentially free for me and I save hundreds of dollars each year by checking out books and videos rather than buying them.  I also use their databases to take classes and learn languages–if I were not a library patron, I would have to pay for these services, too.

People argue for withdrawing support for libraries by claiming that they are outdated, underused, superseded by the Internet.  Ask for your library’s statistics and you will, I guarantee, see that this is not true.  My problem with such statements, aside from the fact that a quick search would expose the reality about library usage, is that these statements are generally made by people who, in fact, don’t use the library.  And thus assume that no one else does, either.

If an individual does not use the library, that often means that the individual can afford not to do so.  That is, they have enough money that they can buy books and DVDs, take classes, and use the Internet if they want.  However, many people don’t have this luxury.  When we take tax funding away from libraries, we are hurting the people who need these services most.  Children learning to read (and remember that increased reading is associated with increased success in school).  Students using the Internet to do their homework or checking out books assigned in their classes (my library gets copies of local reading lists each year to ensure they can by extra books for low income students who will be in to do their summer reading).  Individuals using the computers to search for jobs or communicate with family members.  Individuals teaching themselves English.

Some people, it’s true, don’t use their libraries because their libraries don’t have as much to offer.  The latest releases aren’t there.  They have few database.  The library is small and you can barely check anything out because the shelves would be bare if they let you have ten DVDs at once.  But these libraries want to have resources.  They don’t have them because they don’t have the money.  The best thing you can do to support them, aside from donating money, is to use their services anyway.  Statistics are libraries’ greatest weapons in advocating for increased funding.  Every time you check out a book, request an ILL, ask a librarian a question, or just walk through the door, your contribution is being counted and collated as evidence of library usage–evidence that they will use when budget time rolls around.

Maybe paying $40 a year for a card doesn’t sound like so much.  But for some people, $40 is more than they can afford to pay.   And when they lose the library, they lose access to learning and to opportunity.  So I implore you.  Even if you don’t use the library, think of the people who do.  Think of the children learning to read, the students doing their homework, the individuals trying to teach themselves something new, the homeless taking shelter in the winter. Think of the individuals who need a fantasy because it’s their only escape from a hard life.  The individuals who would never discover jazz or the Avengers or Shakespeare or Harry Potter if they didn’t have a card.  The individuals who participate in library programs that seek to confront racism, to provide tax help, to match the unemployed with local resources.  These people need the library, even if you don’t.

So think about donating to your local library, whether that means giving them your used books, writing a check, or volunteering.  Write to your representatives to let them know why the library is important for the community as a whole.  And go visit your library sometime.  Their resources and programs may surprise you.  And just checking out a book or asking a question will make you a statistic they can use to advocate for more funding.  A simple action can help more than you might think.

For more discussion posts, click here.

Edit: There seems to be confusion about the problem I discuss.  In this case, my hometown library is the local library.  So let’s say it’s located in City A, but neighboring cities B, C, and D do not have their own libraries.  Thus, B, C, and D can contribute tax dollars to the library in A to allow their residents to obtain cards there free.  These cities have begun debating the merit of diverting tax dollars to another city’s library, however, meaning that if they withdraw tax support, their residents will have to pay for a card at City A’s library.  Or they could choose to go to a different library, maybe in City E, where they would also have to pay for a card.  City A, however,  has not entirely cut funding for its own library, though there have been budget cuts over the years, leading to reduced hours and fewer materials and databases.
Krysta 64

17 thoughts on “Why You Should Support Your Library

  1. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    As always, another well thought out, well researched, and well written post. I really enjoy reading both of your discussion posts. I have to admit I didn’t know my library had Kindle titles available to borrow until this past week. The last time I went into a library they barely had the books I needed for school, let alone a new YA book. Now that I know I have these resources available to me, I plan on checking out the library around the corner from my house. I did some research to see if I could find out how much of my county taxes are allocated for the library, and I all I came up with was that it’s free and they’re looking for donated books. I have a ton of books I can donate. I think I’ll start with the stack on my shelf when I go to pick up my library card. Again, nice post!


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, my library is trying to grow their ebook selection since it’s still rather small, but I get the sense that they just don’t have the funding to do it as much as they like. What’s nice, though, is that many libraries are part of a system, so you can use your card in several different libraries if yours doesn’t have what you want. Or in some states you can use your card to get a card free at any participating library. So then you’d be able to access their ebooks from home rather than drive to a library that’s farther away.

      Libraries also let you request books. So if you know you need a book for school, you could submit a request and home they get it in time. But, again, funding limitations might prevent them.

      I found my county’s contributions through their tax website rather than through the library system. I don’t know if that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        I went to the library today and picked up 5 fairly new books. It was a lot smaller than I had thought, with very few YA titles available, but the librarian said I can request a book from any library in the state with my card, which is nice. I couldn’t find the specific tax information, but the librarian told me they have adequate state funding for all the free libraries. I’m pretty exited about what I found, and after checking out the ebooks online, I can’t wait to dive into these.


        • Krysta says:

          That’s exciting! I’ve been to different libraries with apparently different levels of funding. My hometown library has had to reduce its hours over the years as the budget decreased, and I know for a fact they can’t afford all the new releases. To help cover costs, they charge for people to put books on hold or request ILLs.

          I have been to smaller libraries, however, where, despite what seems to be a lack of funding (based on how few books they own), they don’t charge for holds or ILLs–sometimes they even waive your late fees! So I assume they would say they are adequately funded, since they don’t need to charge. But I also think it would be great if they got more money and could have more than two new releases when I go!

          ILLs are pretty great, as well, though sometimes it takes them two months to get me the book.

          Liked by 1 person

          • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

            I’m pretty happy with my finds. Overall, it was a successful trip. I think that particular branch has a more limited budget though. It’s inside of an old Victorian house, which is pretty cool, but they don’t have much room to add new books, even if they wanted to. One cool thing about the Pennsylvania library system is there’s no limit for checked books. The librarian said around 100 books or so, but there’s no set limit. I was shocked. And the other thing she mentioned was that you can borrow the books on Kindle, but if you turn off your wi-fi, they never get returned back to the library. I was surprised about that, too. It seems like they would have a better system for returning ebooks.


            • Krysta says:

              That is pretty cool that they have such a nice building, but they probably do have do a lot of weeding. 😦

              100 books! Wow! I don’t think I could read that many at one time, though it might be useful for homeschooling families.

              Yeah, it makes sense that the book can’t be returned without the Internet, but I guess you’d probably eventually turn on your WiFi again, so they would get the book back when you wanted to check something else out!


            • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

              They give you 3 weeks to read them, but still, who could read that many books in three weeks? That’s probably not the best idea for them to allow so many. Most of the bloggers I’ve talked to said their library allowed max 20. And if someone checked that many out and didn’t return them on time, they’d be accumulating a ton of fees. That’s a good point about the Internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people borrow ebooks, turn off the kindle, and forget about them for a while. Without physical copies, I’m sure a lot of people forget, which impacts everyone the waiting list.


  2. hermionefowl says:

    I absolutely love this post🙂 I didn’t realise some librarians weren’t getting funding anymore! I can’t imagine what I’d do without my library. I make sure I use mine as often as possible, and I agree, it’s so important that as many people as possible are using them


    • Krysta says:

      Libraries are probably getting some sort of funding–just not enough. For example, in this case, my library lost the tax contributions of a neighboring town and might lose the contributions of another. So, just to make up numbers, maybe they used to buy 200 new titles for the department each year. If they keep losing tax dollars, maybe they can only buy 100 titles a year. (Again, totally made up numbers.) Now they have to start making decisions. Maybe they know that there will be 50 popular YA releases in the year but they only have money to buy 30 of them. Which 20 books will they decide not to buy?

      And then, of course, patrons will come in and complain that the library never has the new releases, perhaps causing them not to return to the library. Then library statistics go down and they potentially receive less funding the next year, meaning they can buy even fewer new releases…and then a vicious cycle starts.

      A lot of libraries are becoming creative about fund raising, holding book sales and stuff, but I think it’s still important that we demonstrate to our political leaders that just because they’re wealthy enough not to need the library, that doesn’t mean they should cut funding for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristyn @ Reading to Unwind says:

    This is an excellent article. I have recently heard of towns charging to have a library card and I couldn’t imagine that happening where I live, but I wouldn’t be shocked. I use the library all the time and there are always tons of people in it.


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve never heard of the town the library is based in charging for cards. Normally if you don’t live in the city the library is based in and your city does not pay taxes to maintain that library, you are charged for a card.

      Alternatively, the library might be part of a consortium, so you’d have to get a free card at your home library (the one you pay taxes toward) and then you could use that card to get a free card at a different library in the consortium.

      But charging your taxpayers for a card? I’ve never heard of that.

      I’ve also never heard of a library giving out free cards to everybody, though. Whenever I have walked into a new library, I’ve had to prove residency to them before they would issue me a card.


  4. Lauren @ Bookineering says:

    Lovely article. I’m a huge supporter of my local library (they get page hits from me every day, weekly visits and lots of checkouts) and I’d be lost without it.

    I think it’s neat that an increasing number of libraries are extending the services they offer to including making and crafting in addition to books, music, and movies. I’ve seen libraries with 3D printers and coding classes and my local one has microscopes, oscilloscopes, and a spinning wheel you can check out. Libraries can serve the public in lot of ways besides just providing books, which I think people forget sometimes. Of course, a lot of these other things cost money. It makes me really sad that libraries aren’t just receiving decreased find but actually receiving none at all.😦


    • Krysta says:

      I don’t know if any library receives no funding. In the case I discuss, neighboring towns are withdrawing their tax dollar support from the area library. The city the library is located in still gives the library money.

      Yes, libraries offer a lot of cool services! I’ve seen libraries that help with tax preparation, connect the homeless with resources, let people check out toys and puzzles and even baking pans! (You know, so you don’t have to buy a weird pan for one recipe!) It’s easy to miss out on what libraries are doing if you don’t go often enough to see all the flyers they post, but I’m always checking their website to see what concerts they’re going to have, or author signings, or craft nights!


  5. Rachel @A Perfection Called Books says:

    Libraries are super important!! That’s where my love of reading fostered and grew. If it weren’t for my parents taking me there all the time, I definitely wouldn’t be the reader/person I am today. Also not everyone can afford to buy all the books they want to read or receive them early from publishers so libraries are the way to go! It’s such a great way to encourage people to read, and trust me we DEFINITELY need that in our world. Put down the phone, pick up the book! Great post.

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books


  6. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books says:

    Love this post!! I try to donate to the libraries I use every year in some way. I couldn’t imagine not having a library to take my son to when he was a toddler. It was our #1 favorite place. I do find it funny how you said stats are so important… just because one library I go to they always get all butt-hurt whenever I ask them to do ILLs. I’ve always wanted to be like “HELLO?? Aren’t you happy I’m using your services?” but apparently they should be cause it’s attributing to stats!


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve seen libraries use their ILL stats to lobby for more funding. Basically they said that they obviously need more money to buy their own books since the ILL requests are so unusually high.

      Libraries often also have to count how many people ask them questions. That might be why, when you ask a volunteer a question in the aisle, they direct you to the service desk. The person at the desk might be tallying how many people asked for help with books, computers, directions, etc. If the volunteer helped you, the library couldn’t count you.

      That being said, I have been to libraries where my asking for something seemed like a giant pain to the librarian. But, of course, if someone’s having an off day, they’re not going to care about how I contribute to their statistics or not. ;D


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