I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed with libraries. That’s right. I am truly, madly and deeply in love with libraries. I believe librarians are the coolest people on the planet and contrary to popular belief, it’s your library card that you can’t leave home without.  Not your American Express. With all that being said, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t always feel this way.

After graduating from college, I suffered for almost ten years from a common but under-treated social condition known as Libramnesia. Individuals suffering from Libramnesia completely forget about libraries or even worse, believe libraries are irrelevant. My particular condition was a physical reaction caused by the countless overnighters I spent on the first floor of Byrd Library throughout my four years at Syracuse. Once I handed in the last paper of my college career, I did not step foot into a library again until nearly a decade later.

My first visit back to the library was prompted by another debilitating condition I was also suffering from at the time called unemployment. I was unemployed and needed a book. Up until then, if I wanted a book I bought one. Given my jobless state of being, I decided I could no longer afford the luxury of shopping for books at Barnes and Nobles. It was then, when I needed access to information that I otherwise could not access on my own, did I regain my memory.

The thing that struck me immediately upon my return to my local library was how much the library had changed from how I remembered it. No longer was I limited to borrowing books and DVD’s. Now I could register to learn computer software skills or resume building techniques. In addition, there were opportunities for me to attend forums on topics impacting my community and participate in dialogues with my public officials. I couldn’t help but also notice librarians were no longer wearing buns in their hair. Instead, they wore beautiful smiles that represented the diversity of my community. Despite all of the new additions, one very important thing remained the same – library programs were still free!

Fast forward to today and I’m proud to say I serve as President of the Board of Directors for one of the country’s most innovative urban public libraries – Hartford Public Library. In my dual role as a library board trustee and Libramnesia survivor, I recently headed to Chicago for a librarianship double header – the American Library Association’s Annual Conference and the Urban Library Council’s Annual Forum. During my time at the conference I met with incredibly smart and passionate men and women from around the country that all shared an unbreakable commitment to their respective library communities.

Fortunately, for me, I recovered and regained my memory and appreciation for the awesomeness that is our public library system; however, there are still those among us that continue to suffer. The worst case of Libramnesia was recently identified in Miami, FL., where Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s brain was completely attacked by the disease. The Mayor of the city with the second highest income inequality of any large county in the country made the decision to close 22 libraries and layoff 251 employees in an effort to avoid increasing property taxes. In his fragile condition, the Mayor was quoted as saying  “the age of the library is probably ending.”  To learn why this is the most inaccurate statement ever, please visit ilovelibraries.org.  In the meantime, let’s pray for the residents of Miami-Dade that Mayor Gimenez makes a speedy recovery.

5 Responses to New Case of “Libramnesia” Confirmed

  • Kim Sofo says:

    Thank you. What a wonderful validation of libraries, librarians, library staff, library customers and library lovers. Lets make the cause to find a cure/preventative for libramnesia an international effort.

    Kim

  • Steve Benson says:

    Excellent commentary by Ms. Montanez.

    Still, we have to factor in the political and economic realities that Mayor Gimenez and other cities leaders face. The city can spend no more money than it takes in. If revenues are down then adjustments need to be made and sometimes services need to be cut. The mayor’s predecessor lost his position because he dared to raise taxes. Outcomes measurements for library services can be difficult to come by but they are needed in this day to justify support for libraries when hard choices have to be made.

    Might not the cuts in library branches be a good thing? A branch in every neighborhood might be good politics for individual City Councilmen and Councilwomen but is it the most efficient and effective use of limited library funds? Would better stocked and better funded regional city library branches be a superior offering? The Mayor was wrong to imply that the usefulness of libraries is past but we should recognize that resources are limited, forcing us into tough choices, and we should be prepared to justify the need with data showing concrete results and willingness to compromise by questioning whether the good past practices are the best future practices.

  • Mike Baldwin says:

    Dear Thea,
    Thanks so much for this encomium to the public library. I feel the same way. I’ve been a library director for many years, but also taught American Government. I strongly believe public libraries should be a bulwark of democracy, especially since the public media provide such poor and biased information on politics and social issues. That’s why I created Libraries For Democracy. LFD will provide factual, non-partisan information on politics and social issues to the public and will encourage public libraries to provide programming that will inform and stimulate civic engagement. You can visit LFD’s current website at http://www.LibrariesForDemocracy.info, to get more information and to contribute to LFD’s current campaign to fund a new website. Thanks for your support for public libraries. Best regards, Mike Baldwin

  • Thank goodness you’ve recovered from your affliction! Its hold can be very strong.

    I’m making a career of teaching librarians how to battle this dread disease, from preventing it outright to treating the sick. I’ve made your post one of my tools by sharing it on my FB page for Libraries Are Essential (https://www.facebook.com/LibrariesAreEssential).

    Thanks for sharing your story, Thea. I hope it helps others to recognize their illness and take steps toward recovery. I’m doing my part by sharing it.

  • Tarja Laitinen says:

    Thank you for sharing the sad news about the library closers in Miami Florida by the mayer Gimenez.
    I am a great library supporter, in addition that I work in the custermer service in one of the Salt Lake county libaries. I am happy to sign a petition to try to reverse the decision.

    Our library is not enywhere near of being abondoned by our customers. We feel we serve as an important community center for a large group of county residents. There are political, art, sport, association meetings, adult and children’s bookclubs, chessclub, teen club, family and children’s programs, piano recitals and other events in our meeting rooms.
    Large population of Utah are foreign language speakers, who may not afford language programs available free they are great especially important for children learning to read. Books read to them encrease their desire to learn to read, teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension as well as English language to foreign language speakers. Children’s books are pleantiful provind service to all who are limited in their purchase capacity.
    We have a circulation of 16 miljon items in Salt Lake County library system.
    I thank you again for writing in behalf of the libraries .
    Tarja Laitinen

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