Li­braries are a pre­cious as­set

The Guardian Weekly - - Reply -

Your back-page es­say by Rhi­an­non Lucy Cosslett on the need for li­braries (3 Novem­ber) speaks vol­umes. Any­one who is deaf to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of li­braries in an era of ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy has ob­vi­ously not vis­ited one re­cently.

How else can one ac­count for the 34 mil­lion users of New York City’s 212 branches in 2016, or the al­most 10,000 vis­i­tors each day to Mon­treal’s bilin­gual Grande Bi­b­lio­thèque, touted as the most fre­quented li­brary in North Amer­ica?

Be­sides of­fer­ing free, quiet and com­fort­able havens stocked with hard-copy and dig­i­tal re­sources that pro­mote lit­er­acy, li­braries ex­ist as com­mu­nity hubs where young and old can meet to share the riches that their hard-earned taxes have pro­vided them. It is more than in­ge­nious, then, that in New York there is a move to en­large lo­cal branches and build low-rent hous­ing in the floors above them, thereby tack­ling two of the big­gest prob­lems of ur­ban life: lim­ited ac­cess to life­long learn­ing, and the bur­den of home­less­ness and poverty. Richard Or­lando Westmount, Que­bec, Canada

• Rhi­an­non Lucy Cosslett failed to note that the big­gest ad­van­tage of the pub­lic li­brary is the re­stric­tion on the bor­row­ing time for a book to three weeks (my Cana­dian ex­pe­ri­ence). Far from a neg­a­tive re­stric­tion, this forces me to be­gin read­ing soon af­ter with­draw­ing the book and to fin­ish it in the time avail­able. Many books I have bought re­main in my book­shelf for months or years be­cause there is no pres­sure to read them. Tim Moore Ot­tawa, On­tario, Canada

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