Webster defines a library as “a place in which literary, musical, artistic or reference works are kept for use but not for sale.”
Dating back to 2600 BC, ancient libraries were originally collections of writings on clay tablets. How public libraries have evolved! Yes, they still house books and magazines, but ever so much more. One can obtain music CDs, the latest movies on DVDs, attend a lecture on topics as diverse as gardening and ancient history, or even view an art exhibition. The young can be enthralled by stories read them before their reading skills have been developed; school age children can receive homework assistance, the out-of-work seek jobs, and in some areas, the homeless may receive assistance in seeking medical care. For the disabled, such as I am (or shall I say “physically challenged” to be politically correct?), there are libraries that come to their homes – via the U.S. mail or bicycle. Truly there is something for everyone in the library.
The public library remains an invaluable resource for the entire community, be it for information or for entertainment. There were many who predicted the demise of the library with the increasing use of computers and the internet. To paraphrase Mark Twain, however, “reports of [its] death [were] greatly exaggerated.” Or to return to antiquity, the Library at Thebes entry inscription has the best definition of modern public libraries (and not only because a pediatrician is the author of this essay!) – “Libraries [are the] – medicine chest of the soul.”