Monday, August 24, 2009

Libraries, literacy, and community

Crossposting from the Daily Gumboot where this article originally appeared, only because I know a different group of people read my blog and it's an important issue. If you have thoughts to share why not check out the original post on and comment.

Literacy, both reading-and-writing and community literacy, are critical components of a strong community.

Informed discussion, enlightened imagination, and literal comprehension are the pillars of an active and engaged people. They enable organization, planning, and debate; all of which are critical to a healthy and functioning society.

Public Domain - Vancouver Public Library 04CC -publicdomainarts on flickr

It is difficult to overstate the importance of libraries and literacy.

While it is true that communication tools have led to improved access to information, the effectiveness of that access in terms of promoting local community development and community literacy is greatly diminished by the quest for monetization and the decentralized and isolated nature in which we receive it.

One of the great defining aspects of libraries, beyond providing access to a wealth of information, is that they are communal in nature. Scan the offerings at your local library and you will find activities, courses, support, services, and events that help build strong communities at a grassroots level.

Helping parents raise literate and informed children, helping students and teachers with research and access to information, and opening our eyes to publications from around the globe that provide insight into every aspect of our lives. All provided not for profit, but for our collective good.

Libraries serve as a critical grounding during a time where we are all-to-easily distracted by links of the day, explosions on television, and celebrity gossip publications.

They reveal and support the best in us all. The loss of any of these services would be detrimental to our communities, yet at the moment we find that loss a very real possibility.
BC provincial public libraries have not yet received their 2009 annual operating grants from the provincial government, nor have they been told how much money they will be receiving – both of which usually happen earlier in the fiscal year. There have been strong indications that the Province has decided to stop funding libraries and that this funding may be cut from the current and subsequent budgets.

With articles in community publications across the province, the reaction to this holdback by media points to the importance of libraries to our communities.

Hopefully that coverage leads to informed debate and action that results in a long-term plan to support libraries and the communities of British Columbia.

It’s our chance to support those that support us, to bring positivity to a political debate that is all-too-often debased with uninformed comment, and to steer our representatives towards a very real way they can support the communities from whence they came.

You can find out more about what funding means to British Columbia’s libraries, and how you can become engaged through the British Columbia Library Association. If you're interested they have an official response and list of other resources as well.

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