When James and I moved to Bridgewater, Massachusetts 14 years ago one of the first things we did was get library cards. Our daughter was born within two weeks of our arrival, and I was thrilled to find out that there was a story hour for infants and their caregivers. I made some of my first friends in Bridgewater through this program. I still cry when I think about how much it meant to me. While Paloma was growing up we took advantage of so many programs the library offered including summer reading, puppet shows, and craft classes. Our whole family was devastated when tax payers' refusal to fund the library forced it to cut its hours to 14 a week (from 65). Programs were virtually disappeared and it was almost impossible to find a time that we were free when the library was open. The wonderful staff of course did the best they could, and although the hours are up to 30 a week now, things have not been the same for several years now. I was recently appointed a trustee to Bridgewater Public Library and hope that the board, along with the enthusiastic new director, can bring the library back to its former glory.
Arguments that the library is expendable in times of economic crisis so as to pay for essential services such as police and the fire department are misguided. We can expect that if there is no safe place to go after school (i.e. a library) that crime will go up, and we will need more money for police. Exacting fees from library users to pay for services was a topic of discussion even back when I was in library school 20 years ago. But Keith Michael Fiels, exectutive director of the American Library Association, explains why we need free public libraries more than ever.