For a little hope, however, check out a New York Times article headlined Why Libraries Are Everywhere in the Czech Republic, based on a survey for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
There are more libraries than grammar schools. In fact, there is one library for every 1,971 Czech citizens, the survey found — four times as many, relative to population, as the average European country, and 10 times as many as the United States, which has one for every 19,583 people.
Why so many Czech libraries? Well, for decades they were mandatory — every community, from a big city down to a tiny village, was required by law to have one.
For budgetary reasons, the law went off the books in 2001, when 6011 Czech libraries existed, but since then just 11 percent have shut down or merged.
I’m delighted. As an ebook booster I love neighborhood libraries as ways to strengthen the book culture through story-telling hours, cell phone book clubs (blending the virtual and the face to face) and otherwise.
Furthermore, I’m all for libraries serving as community centers, too, which is happening in Czech Republic, while at the same time demand remains strong for books. A role also exists for local libraries as tech centers, but let’s not forget about books, and I’ll have more to say about this in a post later in week.
I know it’s only dreaming, but I’d love to see a law requiring U.S. jurisdictions to have a Czech-level density of public libraries.
Image credit: Here. Photo is of Czech National Library.