Our libraries need us

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While this week is officially National Library Week, most people realize libraries are there for us almost every day of the year.

Sure, they deserve their own week, but just stopping in on a regular basis is recognition enough for most librarians and their staffers. With that said, it's not a bad idea that when you check in to your local library next time, say hello and thank you to the many people who keep them running.

Libraries are not only repositories of knowledge, edification and entertainment, they are also community meeting spaces where people go for workshops, readings and arts and craft, to name just a few activities.

Locally, we have the Bennington Free Library, located at 101 Silver St. in Bennington, the John G. McCullough Free Library, located at 2 Main St. in North Bennington, Martha Canfield Library in Arlington, the Solomon Wright Public Library in Pownal, the Cheney Library at 73 Classic St., Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and the Manchester Community Library at 138 Cemetery Ave., Manchester Center.

Libraries also serve as centers of conversation with art hanging on their walls and books being read to children. They also show movies and documentaries and offer hands-on events for children and adults alike. And then there are our school libraries, which do an amazing job in adding to the edification of our children. Libraries give information-seekers the opportunity to interact with their fellow community members and gain perspectives they might not have otherwise come across while at home browsing the internet.

We are lucky to be living in a region of the country that values these institutions and their contributions to our communities, our well-being and our knowledge.

But our libraries appear to be under attack these days. The proposed budget coming out of the Trump administration, and its enablers in the Republican Party, have submitted a zero-budget request for the Institute for Library and Museum Services. ILMS Director Dr. Kathryn Matthew told The Hill that $214 million of the $230 million budget goes directly to grants to state and local libraries, including $155 million distributed through a population-based formula grant.

"Imagine what rural libraries and urban branches in the United States hold to preserve the legacies of their often-overlooked communities," writes John William Templeton for The Hill. Templeton is a former journalist who is now a library laureate of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. "Those are the kinds of institutions which most benefit from ILMS funding."

While local libraries don't receive money directly from federal institutions such as the ILMS, they do receive the money as it is funneled through the state. Were these funding sources to be cut off, the burden of supporting the local library would fall to local taxpayers.

"Libraries are essential to society and, particularly to democracies," writes Templeton, noting the Trump administration's suggested budget has an obvious ulterior motive. "Because there is a consistent budgetary theme against information and creativity, it is clear that there is a political motive to suppress transparency. One of the most important functions of libraries is to provide citizens with the information necessarily to make decisions as intervenors or voters. Since the administration and Congress are also threatening the right to vote, libraries are a threat to their aims."

With so many of our national institutions coming under attack by an administration that doesn't even blink when it comes to lobbing $60 million worth of missiles at Syria or in expending millions of dollars on Trump's visits to his golf courses or for his family's security in New York City, it's easy to become overwhelmed. While we, as citizens may not be able to address all of the attacks being leveled, we can pick and choose our favorite causes. Among many others, our libraries deserve our voices. As they are here for all of us, we should be here for them.



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