From this morning's Ottawa Citizen editorial page:
Libraries are the way that, in an increasingly knowledge-based society, we create knowledge.
They are the places that, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods, young people can obtain the tools leading to a productive, fulfilling life. As well, these neighbourhood gathering places instill principles, create vision, enhance socialization and promote inspiration. Give energetic people tools and knowledge and the world is theirs.
Libraries are not welfare or charity or wasted spending. They are practical, nurturing places where people - sometimes low-income people - can develop the acumen for improving themselves. It's better for young people to be exploring there than hanging out on street corners, developing skills that will land them on welfare or in jail.
That is why it is disconcerting to hear library board chair Jan Harder talk about closing libraries to meet the system's $3.2 million shortfall in the 2008 budget. While the federal government is awash in a $10-billion surplus, strapped city governments are considering closing real, practical institutions such as libraries. When one considers the waste in the federal government (the millions lost on the gun registry immediately comes to mind), it is appalling that cities are forced to consider shutting libraries as an option. This should never happen.
Somehow Ottawa's police service is never short of dollars. And generally when the police become involved in an issue, it means that all other approaches have failed. One wonders if we would need fewer police if we had more libraries.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2007