A Tribute To Libraries

Libraries are more than buildings full of print books. Rather, they’re also a way for people to connect with those they may not normally interact with, a place for anyone to access countless educational resources, and ultimately, an emblem of social equality.

outside-library

Anuttam Ramji, Staff Writer

As I go on walks at a nearby park, I often catch glimpses within adjacent buildings. Retail stores, though socially distant and operating at limited capacity, carry on with their commercial activities. There is one building, however, that has been almost always unoccupied since March — the Santa Clara Northside Branch Library. The dimly lit rooms exude a warmth that seems inviting from the cold evening air, but the library’s closed.

This particular library is no stranger to dormancy. After partial construction, funding disputes threatened to leave the library half-built, stuck in limbo for nearly two years as a testament to rigid bureaucracy. Yet, the community refused to let this continue unabated. Officials fought to speak to state offices, neighborhood citizens campaigned and created petitions, and there were even distinctive orange t-shirts made in support of the cause. Eventually, enough funding was secured to build the library, and the over-three-thousand people that attended its grand opening firmly cemented the fact that libraries are an essential part of countless communities.

The massive support behind the effort to build the Northside Branch was unprecedented, but it shouldn’t necessarily be surprising. Libraries are keystones of vibrant communities. Often hosts of neighborhood programs and public events, libraries are a ‘social glue’ for many terrains. In the recent election, for example, my local library acted as a polling station. And though their reputation may associate them with silence, libraries indeed encourage interaction by bringing together various types of people with diverse backgrounds. Many also have designated meeting spaces that can be used for free, and all these are beneficial for developing a healthy community.

Libraries are a symbol of a public, egalitarian institution in an increasingly commodified and unequal world.

Libraries are also emblematic of a social equality that is seldom-found in our world. The information behind its doors is open to anyone, regardless of identity, meaning the people in a library are as diverse as the thoughts found in there. People are nudged to engage with broader culture, introducing them to new people and ideas. Thus, libraries are a symbol of a public, egalitarian institution in an increasingly commodified and unequal world. Their role as community hubs also means they serve as support centers for people experiencing homelessness by providing both physical shelter and educational resources. 

Of course, if one simply wants to plop down in a chair and become absorbed in a good book, the library obviously allows for this as well; my local library actually offers an assortment of chairs to sit in, including armchairs, swivel chairs, benches, and beanbags. In fact, this variety is representative of the quality that makes libraries appealing. They simultaneously act as community hubs, centers of free thought, and places to read because their function is determined by how their users employ them. 

This is ultimately what a library is: an opportunity. You are free to utilize a library for any purpose, and the only rule is to respect others’ right to do the same. Libraries have given us countless resources and opportunities and have asked us for little in return. So, please, now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, remember that they need us to support them the same way they’ve supported us.