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What Would a World Without Libraries Look Like? Kids Have Their Say.

Rita Meade

Staff Writer

Rita Meade is a public library manager (and children's librarian at heart) who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Here at Book Riot, she hosts the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly bookish advice show. She reads as much as she possibly can (and it's still never enough), reviews children's books for "School Library Journal," and is the author of a forthcoming picture book called Edward Gets Messy (Simon & Schuster Young Readers, 2016). She also occasionally writes about funny library stuff over on her blog, and even less occasionally sings in a librarian band. Blog: Screwy Decimal Twitter: @screwydecimal

Sometimes the job has its perks. A few years ago, I was asked to be a judge for a student library essay contest being held by a local councilman. The topic of the contest was “The Future of Libraries,” and the kids who entered produced thoughtful, enlightening, (and quite amusing, in some cases) results.

I will admit that one of the “darker” entries, which sadly did not win, might have been my favorite. (See full essay here. It’s worth it.)

So when I was asked to be a judge for the contest again this year AND also to host the awards ceremony at my library, I jumped at the chance. The essay contest is not only a great opportunity for students to show off their writing chops, but it also gives me a candid look at what they really think about the function of libraries in their young lives. Plus, these kids will (with any luck) grow up to be lifelong library users, so we need to pay attention to their thoughts and ideas. They’re pretty smart.

This year’s essay topic was “A World Without Libraries” – a topic that has increasing relevance as THE MAN seem to want to squash libraries at every turn.

Students from local elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools were asked to share their views about what the world might be like without libraries and how that would potentially affect their lives. (Note: this must have been part of a broader lesson unit, as the topic also came up during a class visit I had at my library a few months ago, sparking a rather poignant and hilarious discussion.)

I was in charge of choosing three finalists from about 50 or so elementary school entrants, and I can honestly say that each essay I read had value. Of course, there are always standout ideas, so I chose my personal 10 favorite lines from 10 different essays. I hope you enjoy reading the kids’ thoughts as much as I did. (Any spelling, syntax, or punctuation errors by the students have been kept intact.)

Top 10 “A World Without Libraries” Essay Quotes From Brooklyn Kids:

1) “A library is a need in our community. That is what I’m trying to explain to you. A library has knowledge and we can never get too much knowledge. Let’s not forget to mention that going to the library is FUN!”

2) “So a world without libraries would be a dump. People won’t find as much information. People’s education will decline. A world without libraries? Well the world will be upside down!”

3) “Libraries still teach and educate people. They hold reading classes, English as a Second Language groups, they organize various book related activities for children, invite famous authors to give speeches, lend us audio and videotapes, help us look for a job, and finally, conduct a research. Can you imagine something like this happening in the world without libraries? ‘Excuse me,’ said one gentleman, ‘Is there any chance you have change for a dollar?’ ‘What? I have no nothing,’ a stranger screamed back. What have we become? Do we know how to use proper grammar and correct English? Why don’t we ask the librarians, listen to them speak beautiful English while they are answering our questions. Have you ever met a librarian whose language skills you did not like or who was not able to tell you all about the subjects ranging from classics to modern literature? What would happen to these well-educated, well-read people if we closed our libraries? It would be like losing a hand.”

4) “I love reading and without libraries I would be super bored. Libraries connect us to books. Life would be horrible without libraries.”

5) “Close your eyes. Imagine you are walking through New York City. You see many empty lots say ‘Lot for rent’ or ‘Century 21 is going to be here.’ You were going to the library to get a book on plate tectonics when it hits you…NO LIBRARIES! We would have no places where you could just get in the zone and read. When you are going to a library, you are always welcome. You are away from all the city hustle and bustle madness. You are CALM. They always said ‘Silence is golden.'”

6) “At the library you can find anything from aardvark to zebu. When you are there and reading you are holding a work of art in your hands. You can feel the authors presence telling you the story. Wouldn’t Benjamin Franklin be upset if there were no libraries and he worked so hard on inventing them?”

7) “Libraries make people feel at home. When I first moved to New York City, coming from a more rural area of New York, everything was very confusing and weird but the library was something I had seen before.”

8) “They say everyone smiles in the same language. If this is true then everyone is speaking in the same language when they visit a library.”

9) “Libraries make the world go round. They keep the little sanity we have left here.”

And finally,

10) “The world without libraries is like a cone without ice cream.”

And these were only some of the great things the kids wrote about libraries. When all the finalists came to my branch to get their awards from the City Council and read their essays out loud in front of their proud parents, I was blown away (and often moved to tears – what can I say, I’m a big sap) by how much the library has meant to them so far in their lives. So there you have it, folks. Listen to the children!