Libraries are important.
It’s a statement most would agree with. A statement many professionals try to prove and defend in a variety of ways. I’ve heard all of the arguments surrounding information democracy, communal space, and free access. They all make sense.
I have a slightly different argument for why libraries are so important. It’s simple, and it involves many of the ideas frequently cited in arguments defending the utility and importance of libraries. Here it is: Libraries provide education without evaluation.
Too many children, teens, and young adults have a self worth that is negatively affected by grades and school evaluation methods. They live in a constant state of stress, awaiting the next set of midterm grades, report cards, and comments that they look to in order to validate their intellect and potential. I know this feeling all too well; throughout my undergraduate career I hinged my idea of success on the grades I received, often ignoring the effort I put into the work. I was conditioned to think that my identity and my future relied on that final grade. This is not a way to live, or to learn.
Often, schools focus more on grades than actual education; libraries don’t do this. Libraries offer students an environment that focuses on education rather than academics. It emphasizes the pursuit of knowledge and celebrates learning free from any evaluation of how quickly or effectively knowledge is gained. It is a space that taught me the value of education over school, and for that I am forever grateful.