The Role of Public Libraries in Guaranteeing Access to Knowledge

Public lending libraries have long held an important role in providing communities with valuable access to books, periodicals, and other materials free of charge. Libraries have also served as meeting places for community groups as well as venues for poetry readings and receptions.

The opportunity to walk into a public library and have access to more books than any one person could hope to acquire on their own on every known subject is invaluable. In addition to books, modern libraries also offer newspapers, magazines, literary journals and other periodicals, music recordings, and movies. Large libraries, usually the main branch locations, also offer microfilm, special archives and collections, and resource centers. Some libraries also offer tutoring to develop computer skills.

As the communities they serve have changed over time, the role of public libraries has evolved further and further. They increasingly provide more access to new media, which for some is the only hands-on access they have to new information and technology.

The guaranteed access to knowledge that public libraries provide is more important than ever before as underserved populations become aware of what libraries have to offer and the advantages afforded in using them. This is particularly the case in the age of ebooks as now proximity and location are no longer an issue.

In addition to books on how to do just about everything imaginable, individuals seeking information on grant opportunities can find a wealth of resources at public libraries. The extensive reference collections at public libraries, though not necessarily available for borrowing, are vital to students as well as anyone conducting historical research.

Children’s story time is a valuable resource for parents that also fosters the love of reading in children. For some children, attending these events may even spark the desire to become a writer. Public libraries that present author readings by poets, fiction writers, biographers, and others, bring communities face to face with role models and sources of inspiration, and afford them the opportunity to further engage and ask questions.

Since their inception, public libraries have provided countless individuals with limitless hours of virtual adventure and entertainment, as well as multiple resources for learning new information, viewing other cultures, achieving goals, and accomplishing tasks.

The role of public libraries in guaranteeing access to knowledge to everyone can best be summed up in the words of Ray Bradbury: “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”