There is no denying that we are living through a historic moment right now as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Not since 1918 have we as a society experienced a global pandemic.
It was a week ago today that the Berryville Library closed to the public as a safety precaution, and all across Berryville, Carroll County, Arkansas, the United States, and the world, life looks very different than it did just a few short days ago.
Since March 17, the Berryville Public Library’s building has been closed to the public, but that doesn’t mean we’re not serving our community and trying to do as much as we safely can. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for us–since the COVID-19 coronavirus is so new, we’ve had to basically write our own how-to guide to cope, based on the information currently available.
So . . . what are we doing behind closed doors for now?
Usually, I try to do a book review for the second week of every month, but I wanted to take a break from our regular blog programming to chat about some exciting new developments here at the Berryville Public Library. . . .
This past weekend, Forbes published an op-ed that advocated for libraries being shut down and replaced by Amazon bookstores, all in the name of saving people tax money. Due to widespread public outrage, the piece has apparently been pulled, though it is still preserved on the Wayback Machine. I wrote this response while the article was still on Forbes’s website, and we are still posting it because we want to educate people about the role of public libraries and their very real value to their communities.
As someone who has spent the last 10 years working for the Berryville Public Library and is currently a member of our Friends of the Library board, I was horrified by the measures the Forbes editorial recommended. But I was also disturbed by the number of misconceptions that Panos Mourdoukoutas, the author of the piece, seems to have about what libraries actually do and the services they provide their communities.
He notes that in the past libraries provided resources like books, magazines, and journals, as well as quiet research places, comfortable places to enjoy books, space for community events, video rentals, and free internet access. However, according to his reasoning, these things can all be sought elsewhere, including Starbucks and Amazon bookstores.
I have been hearing these doom-and-gloom pronouncements about how outdated libraries are and how they are shortly on their way toward the fate of dinosaurs and dodos since I was first hired by a library. Inevitably, I have always found that they are perpetuated by people who have outdated ideas of what libraries do.