An Essay on Why We Need to Save our Branch Libraries

The city just closed the Wyckert Branch Library, and now student Dawna Wilson must spend two dollars in bus fares to reach the main library. The Oakmont Branch Library is next on the chopping block because Mayor Berghoff considers branch libraries “outmoded, inefficient, little used, and expensive.” I disagree. Branch libraries are important because they promote culture and education, provide convenient access to information for residents in all neighborhoods, and save people time and money. For these reasons, we should support funding for our city’s branch libraries. First of all, branch libraries benefit neighborhoods by bringing people together for cultural events and by encouraging learning. The Oakmont Branch Library presents a folklore lecture series each fall, shows a classic film each month, and hosts five weekly book clubs.

In addition, many people learn to read through tutoring programs at their branch libraries. “When new readers first come here and realize that they will be able to read anything they want, their eyes just light up,” says Oakmont librarian Norah Colman. The Oakmont Branch library is not “outmoded” or “inefficient.” It does what no other library can do: function as the heart of the Oakmont community. Furthermore, people throughout the city use the resources available at branch libraries. These resources include books, reference materials, computers, and even classes. As a result, anyone who doesn’t have a computer can walk into the library and have access to the Internet.

People can go to the branch library to read books, magazines, and newspapers they can’t afford to buy, or they can go to take useful classes, such as “English as a Second Language.” Far from being “little used,” the Oakmont Branch Library has 173 residents currently enrolled in regular classes, clubs, and activities, and patrons check out an average of 350 materials every day. Without branch libraries, many of the city’s residents would not have access to educational materials and helpful services. Finally, branch libraries save people time and money. When the downtown library opened 100 years ago, our city was smaller. Only 50,000 people lived here, and most of them lived downtown, so the library was in a central location. Today, more than 500,000 people live here, and the city is spread out. Many people who live in the outlying areas must travel 15 miles one way to get to the main library, and even using public transportation costs money and takes time. If the nearly 150 residents who use Oakmont Branch Library every day each have to pay $2 to go to the main library, that’s $300 per day-or about $9,000 per month.

The Oakmont Branch Library’s municipal support amounts to $8,000 a month in taxes. Closing the library will cost residents more than leaving it open. Clearly, branch libraries enrich our city’s neighborhoods. They bring people together to enjoy culture and learning. They offer resources and opportunities that allow people to pursue their goals. They provide free sources of information and entertainment within walking distance of residents’ homes. We should support branch libraries by demanding that our city council members fund them properly. Branch libraries bring the assets of the downtown library to people throughout the city.