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LIBRARIES IN CRISIS

Worthy of public support

February 23, 2010

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RE “IN crisis, Boston libraries need better board, more private funds’’ (Editorial, Feb. 19): Your editorial urging private fund-raising for the Boston Public Library overlooks the unique nature of this institution. If you look at photographs of public library reading rooms in the early 20th century, you will see working-class Americans at every table, reading expensive-to-them newspapers and books in the pursuit of the American dream of self improvement. Enter today’s public libraries, particularly urban ones such as Boston’s or Brockton’s, and you will see computer work stations full of new Americans, or newly displaced workers, filling out applications and filing resumes. You’ll see them line up to ask the reference librarian how to use resources, electronic or printed, to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

Just as we understand that every one of us, parent or not, has a stake in free public education for all, so too do we owe it to ourselves to keep these toolkits for succeeding (and then contributing) open to all. It is as much a part of the social contract as paving roads and fighting crime. Libraries are worthy of public - meaning tax-funded - support.

Harry R. Williams III, Brockton
The writer is the director of the Brockton Public Library System.

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