“Why are libraries important? Why is air important? You need to live.” Colson Whitehead, winner of the Pulitzer prize for his novel The Underground Railroad, makes a compelling case for the indispensability of libraries. In a video (above), the author is joined by actor and publisher Sarah Jessica, writers Chloe Benjamin and Augustus Rose and others to speak about why public libraries matter to them.
For some it is the vast choice of books that libraries place in front of you – discovering titles that you did not even know existed or as places of research for their own writing. For others, like writer Matthew Desmond, it is the service they provide as shelter and resource for the homeless and economically disadvantaged. The video was released to honour the twelfth edition of National Friends of Libraries Week, an annual event by the American Library Association to raise awareness about public libraries in local communities.
Closer home, public libraries in India remain few and far between. According to international standards, there must be one public library for every 3,000 people. But India, instead of the requisite four lakh public libraries, only has 60,000. While this paucity has led to the setting up of community-led libraries, access remains a problem.
And if anybody still needs convincing about the power of libraries, watch legendary poet Maya Angelou (below) talk about how a public library quite literally saved her life.