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Public libraries serve a vital community need and deserve increased funding

Over $1 billion in funding could create a better society


As the Oscar A. Silverman Library undergoes extensive renovations to bring UB students a state-of-the-art study space with updated amenities, public libraries in New York City can barely keep toilets from overflowing.

From clogged water pipes to leaking roofs and broken windows, the infrastructure of many libraries in NYC is in desperate need of repair.

As The New York Times reported, the city’s three public library systems have responded to what is arguably an impending crisis and asked for $1.4 billion over the next 10 years to ensure that all 217 libraries in the city meet the standards of modern buildings.

The request may seem staggering, but it’s on par not just with the needs of these facilities but also with the vital nature of the services they provide.

Because beyond these maintenance issues, many libraries currently struggle to accommodate the needs of their patrons simply because they don’t have the space to fit the variety of classes and equipment that are in demand.

Many community members rely on the library as one of the few free sources of education and career services, and the individuals who are motivated enough to seek out these resources for self-improvement deserve to have their needs met.

Libraries are nothing short of salvation for individuals who have nowhere else to turn in their pursuit of knowledge or self-improvement.

With services like English classes that immigrants can use to improve their odds of finding a job, tutoring for students and computer education courses – all for free – libraries help to level a very uneven playing field.

As a source of accessible technology for all, public libraries help to bridge the digital divide that too often mitigates the opportunities that the Internet can provide for individuals struggling to make ends meet.

The access to computers that libraries provide make it possible for individuals to apply for jobs – or to get started on their resumes – search for apartments, or stay in touch with distant relatives.

These services are as straightforward as they are essential, and it’s critical the libraries receive the funding they need to stay up and running.

With additional funds, libraries can do a better job of meeting the needs of an incredibly diverse population of patrons.

Community events like story hours could be conducted in multiple languages, more classes could be offered to expand the libraries’ educational reach and the sanctity of the library as a testament to the power of access to information would be maintained.

Because even as electronic resources like e-books grow increasingly popular and generate questions about the future of libraries, the rapid advancement of technology cannot stymie the ongoing needs of community members who rely on the space of the library itself, and the staff members who offer their assistance.

Almost $1.5 billion is undoubtedly a vast amount of money. But when it’s going toward a necessity as vital and as rewarding as a renovated, revived system of public libraries, it’s clear that this is precisely the kind of cause that should receive billions in funding.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com


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