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letters | don’t count out the traditional public library

Report of their demise is greatly exaggerated

Much as I share Jennifer Graham’s esteem (Op-ed, Aug. 12) for the Little Free Library, “mini-libraries with no cards, no fines, no invasive record of one’s reading history,” I am scratching my head at her disparagement of public libraries, and her opinion that they are fading into irrelevance. She could hardly be more wrong.

To say that the library is “where most books hide as if they’re in some sort of secret book protection plan” is absurd. Perhaps Graham’s local library is a secret to her, but use of most public libraries is growing, not shrinking. Ours has more than 13,000 resident cardholders, and an average of 1,000 people a day come through the doors, in a town of 21,000. That doesn’t count online users.

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Not all are borrowing books — many attend films, music recitals, art exhibits, and lectures (including author readings), as well as carry out research, but they know the books are not hidden.

Graham also deplores that public libraries are “dependent on taxpayer dollars.” Yes, like every other public service, including schools, police, the fire department, and the post office.

Oddest of all is Graham’s remark that in offering e-books, as well as online borrowing and renewal, libraries are “contributing to their own demise.” Such services, along with digitally assisted interlibrary lending, do exactly what she say she wants — get books more easily into the hands of those who need them.

If libraries (or newspapers) were to despise all but the printed model and the old ways of doing things, they really would disappear.

David Mehegan


The writer is president of the board of the Hingham Public Library.

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