(The letterhead PDF version of the following letter is available here.)
Back when the internet became omnipresent, many thought the age of books — and by definition, libraries — was over. Forbes even dared to hypothesize that public libraries were unnecessary. Why pay taxes to keep a bricks-and-mortar library going? they reasoned. Why not privatize? Why not buy books at Amazon, read them at Starbucks and watch movie choices on Netflix?
The article elicited so much outrage that Forbes immediately removed it from its website. We could have told them. People are passionate about their libraries. Last year at this time, Brooks was so full it was hard to book a meeting space. Downstairs, you could browse the shelves, read magazines, play chess, check your email, listen to a lecture, make photocopies, have Jeanne help you with research, have Matt help you with a tech problem, peruse the latest display put together by Courtney, fill out a job application, trade book recommendations with Ellen, Klara, Lorena, and Sarah, search your family’s ancestry or exchange gossip with a friend while getting checked out. Free yoga classes, writers’ workshops, Scrabble games and serious lectures competed for space. The Children’s Room was often filled with children playing, dancing, listening to stories with Lindsay or making art and checking in with their pals Jeni, John, Judy and Julia. Chloe enriched and honored the teen experience with her interactions in the Spicy Lime. You could take out snowshoes in the winter and enjoy hours of warmth catching up on the latest magazines processed by Maria. Jenn could get the most esoteric texts through interlibrary loan, and Leslie and Marybeth kept the new books flowing. Brooks was truly the center of our community.