Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wordcraft -- Dallas libraries' new weeklong schedule

Quick¾ what’s one great thing about the photo illustrating this post? The library? The young person entering a library? And joining other people in that library?

If you answered, all of the above, you’re absolutely correct. But there’s one more really great thing about this photo¾ it was taken on a Monday.

If being open on a Monday doesn’t sound like a big deal, consider this: after years of city budget cuts that closed most of the city’s library branches on Mondays (not to mention Sundays), we once again have an all-week long library system. The kind of system you’d expect from a city studded with high-ticket, high-profile museums and opera houses and sports arenas.

As of yesterday, January 5, seven of Dallas’ 29 branches,(including the White Rock Hills branch where I snapped this picture) are open seven days a week. Of those, all except the central branch downtown will also have extended evening hours, open until 8 p.m. three nights a week.

Starting April 6, six more locations are scheduled to provide all-week service.

My daughter’s family in a close-in suburb can’t imagine not having a library to take her kids to every day of the week. But her city has a single library serving a population of about 100,000 people.  Dallas has twenty-nine libraries serving one and a quarter million people. For way too long, its libraries have gotten the short end of the city’s budget. Our city council could agree that things like police and fire service, and maybe fixing street potholes were important. But libraries? Aren’t they just full of, you know, books?

Nothing against housing books, but that’s not the only thing modern libraries do. They’re the new community centers, offering free Internet and the computers to access it with. Dallas city libraries require computer users to have either a library card or an Internet card. Internet cards are available to anyone with valid identification, regardless of local residency.

And then there are movies, music, classes, homework help, tax help. And more.

Librarian Josh Hanagarne writes in his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian, “A library is a miracle. A place where you can learn just about anything, for free. A place where your mind can come alive.¼ The mind that asks and experiments and evaluates will die one day, but will provide a richer life for its owner. The mind that does nothing but rest inside the brain doesn’t sidestep the puddle. It’s sitting in it.”

Hanagarne’s library in Salt Lake City has a fitness room. (He’s six foot seven and competes in strongman events. I don’t doubt that he really is the world’s strongest librarian.) I wonder how much lobbying it would take to get a gym in Dallas libraries. Or at least a coffee shop. But for now, my mind is too thrilled about what we have to brood about what we don’t have. At least, what we don’t have yet.

For a full listing of Dallas branch library hours and locations, see
http://dallaslibrary2.org/. Check out what the library has to offer you. And maybe check out Hanagarne’s book. It may change your mind about libraries and librarians.

(Next Tuesday -- remember NaNoWriMo? Remembering November, looking ahead.)

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