We have quite a few new readers around here who may have missed this fun fact about me, but I’m a full time public librarian. So sometimes I write about issues I see being discussed in the library world that also have an impact on politics. I’m also somewhat of an anomaly since public librarians are notoriously liberal.
Anyway, last night, AOC caused quite a stir when she retweeted this tweet about how public libraries should be open 24/7.
What I love about this tweet is that it embodies something we desperately need right now: public imagination.
When we focus on imagining and debating new possibilities of what we want to accomplish, instead of relentlessly fixating on limitations, we build the will to do more. https://t.co/iLgiXDh5Bt
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 2, 2019
Here’s the original thread that started the whole thing.
maybe we wouldn’t be so addicted to these screen things if we had accessible, inviting, and stimulating public spaces to feel seen, connected, included, and nourished?
— erin glass (@erinroseglass) February 23, 2019
It’s a nice thought, but makes me think the original tweeter doesn’t use the library very much anymore. We’ve shifted from quiet spaces to technology and programming hubs because while books and literacy are at the heart of our mission, libraries have to adapt to the times to give our patrons what they want.
And they want computers, electronic devices/resources, and wifi.
Most of the time, there aren’t enough public computers for the amount of people that want to use them and lack of funding makes it nearly impossible to buy more.
That same lack of funding would be a problem if we were to keep the doors open 24/7. You’re going to need staff there to make sure people have someone to help them. It will also cost more to keep the lights and electricity on 27/7. And believe me, you’ll want to hire security – most libraries need a security guard during the day but can’t afford one and if I was running the branch, I would not want my staff there at night without an armed security guard.
The irony of it all is that my place of work is hardly ever empty during working hours. The majority of the people aren’t engaging each other face to face. They are on their devices or using the library’s tech. Mind you we offer substantial programming for all ages.
— Syntychia Samuel 🙏🏾💪🏾🙅🏾♀️💃🏾👑 (@sobenyree) February 24, 2019
The library is an amazing institution, but it can't fix everything. The $ a municipality would spend on late-night library hours would be WAY better spent on mental health care, which is practically non-existent in most communities.
— Alexandra Duncan (@DuncanAlexandra) February 24, 2019
Many librarians were upset by the “Night Library” tweet bc we have worked hard on behalf of “public imagination” for decades but NEED MORE REAL SUPPORT in order to keep doing this. Librarians inherently love imagination and we also love feeding our families. Plz be our champion.
— Drunkest Librarian (@DrunkestLibrary) March 2, 2019
It’s a safe bet to say that if the library was open 24/7, there would at least be one or two people in the building. Especially when the weather is bad because sometimes people without a home just need a warm place to go. Even on the worst weather days, my library has one or two people that sometimes WALK in ice and snow to get to the library just to use the computer.
I was homeless in 2010-11, have a white collar job now. I’d still be homeless w/o libraries
In libraries I:
Escaped bad weather
Wrote my resume
Searched and applied for jobs via internet
Studied my industry to work my way up after I landed a job for 8.50/hr
— Matt Kennedy (@mwckennedy) March 2, 2019
Public imagination is great. More funding would be even better! (I beg of you – and any other elected official – to talk to some current NYC public librarians before actually pursuing ideas such as this, though. There's a lot to discuss!)
— Rita Meade (@ScrewyDecimal) March 2, 2019
Namely staffing. I’m not sure I’m down for that midnight shift 😂
— sara (@fawksylibrarian) March 2, 2019
Libraries have value, and while I appreciate AOC’s sentiment here, like many of her other big ideas, the concept of a 24/7 library just isn’t feasible. Until she can discuss how to increase funding to pay staff, utilities and security officers, it’s just a nice tweet that will get a lot of attention and feelings.