Monday, Dec. 1, 2008 | Scott Lewis, one of my favorite journalists, needs to turn in his San Diego library card after writing: “Perhaps such a vision would include a warehousing system in a relatively cheap facility in the Kearny Mesa area.” A Netflix approach to distributing books? Help!

Obviously Lewis needs to hang out in a community library in Ocean Beach or University City. Libraries are second homes for the soul and body, mind and heart. Has Scott seen story time with toddlers crowding around a reader? Has he seen a senior citizen reading a real newspaper, one who can no longer afford to subscribe to the newspaper? Has he seen a downsized employee checking out opportunities?

Jamie La Rue, who serves on the Library Leadership Peer Panel, commented on why we must have government-run libraries: “Because not everybody can afford to purchase new books. Public libraries are a ‘bootstrap’ institution, providing resources to folks who might not otherwise get them. Because libraries do more than provide bestsellers. We provide children’s books and story times, perhaps our nation’s most potent strategy for sowing literacy in the land. We provide both civic and recreational nature, thereby building communities, and providing access to ideas that are in short supply elsewhere. We answer reference questions essential to students, struggling entrepreneurs, curious voters, and more. We bridge the digital divide, and thereby participate in still-emerging forms of creativity and social discourse. And yes, we preserve parts of the past — but not as museums. We are workshops for the future. Because having publicly-funded institutions that actively respond to the paying customer is a good idea. Public institutions that ignore today’s public interests and needs not only die, they deserve to.

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