The Case For Getting Rid Of Public Libraries

This is going to be an incredibly unpopular post if you read just the title. But hear me out. I think it’s time to get rid of public libraries, on the whole. Just chuck ’em in the trash. Close them all.

And – here’s the critical part: start over.

My local library was sold by the county years ago (I’m talking over a decade, now) to a private company that manages public libraries. Tax dollars still go in to the library, steadily. But it is also operated by this company, who works closely with the city to also do programs, allow the city to use rooms for special events and meetings, and – as it turns out – sell the place for use as a wedding venue.

This was a great solution to a growing economic and management problem for the city. And, to be fair, it has ensured that rebuilding and remodeling of the library, and a steady stream of employment opportunities, continued to be available.

But the quality of the library since then has steadily gone down hill.

Years ago, I started complaining about this here on my blog, and on Twitter. The library is no longer a quiet respite, where anyone that utters a sound above a whisper is quickly hushed by an elderly woman with Coke bottle glasses, standing behind the reference desk. No, the library is a loud, chaotic place, with children screaming in every corner, rolling around on the floor and running like it’s a race track. The only thing louder than the screaming children is – ironically – the employees, who frequently while assisting people in finding books will yell at the top of their voices from aisles away “it’s over here!”

I read a few years ago in an article written in the Wall Street Journal that libraries are no longer what they were in the past. This environment of quiet and serene and calm, combined with every book you could ever want – the ultimate, introverted bibliophile’s dream – was dead. Now, libraries are considered “information technology centers.” It is expected that they will be loud. The computers and technology have taken center stage, as has designated spaces for teens to hang out and thrive. No sooner after reading that article, in fact, had my local library made the decision to demolish half of its reading, study, and meeting areas in favor of a Teen Center, which actually has a sign posted in the front of it: “this is a space for teens, only.”

Libraries are different now, there’s no doubt about that. And while I can definitely – DEFINITELY – acknowledge the positives that come of some of these changes, it’s essentially turned libraries into spaces for certain people only.

There are a few incidences at my local library over the years that has led me to believe that.

The Fight at the Balloon Show

I blogged about this years ago, but I’ll refresh all of your memories, just in case.

Several years ago, before I had my toddler, my dad and I took my older kids (who were little kids at the time) to the weekly summer shows that the library held. It was always fun stuff then, like puppet shows, magic acts, and a balloon show – where the people running it did tricks inside human-sized balloons, followed by making balloon animals for all of the kids.

Of course today, these acts have been largely replaced by African drum circles and “The Zany Xylophone Show,” but then…it was a great, free activity for kids.

While standing in the line to go in to the balloon show that day, a small child ran in to my senior citizen dad. He had not had his hip surgery yet, and my dad almost fell over. My dad steadied himself on his cane, and told the kid to be careful so that no one got hurt. Five minutes later, the child’s mother approached my father screaming.

We moved to the back of the line to avoid any more conflict (probably the wrong thing to do), but sure enough, halfway through the show, I saw the woman’s child standing up in front of a group of other kids, in effect blocking their view. A father walked over and whispered quietly to the kid that he needed to sit down so the other kids could see. Five minutes later, again, the same kid’s mother was at that guy’s throat.

The entire show stopped. Like halted with a record screech. All of us sat there as we watched this crazy woman verbally abuse the man for asking her son – politely, I will add – to sit down so the other kids could see. Eventually a librarian showed up and got involved.

And asked the man and his child to leave.

It was that day that I learned a very important lesson about the world, or at least the community library in which I live. The loudest person to yell and scream and bully is invariably the one that comes out ahead. That doesn’t make it okay. It’s just the way it is.

The Pornography On The Second Floor

My kids homeschool. They always have, actually. It’s worked for us, and they are still super social.

And, my kids are pretty advanced in the majority of their subjects.

Several months ago, I took them to the library because they were working on a research project and paper. The way our library is set up places every single reference book on the second floor, so naturally – because they needed a variety of reference books for the project – we headed upstairs to get to work.

Well, the other thing that is upstairs is the computer lab. There are two computer labs in the library. One on the first floor in the children’s section, which is mostly host to video games. And one on the second floor in the reference section, which is – therefore – designated for adult or reference/research use. The ones upstairs have Jstor and other academic journals, while the ones downstairs have Fortnite.

My kids were only planning to use reference books, though, so we immediately headed to the encyclopedias. We had not even made it from the stairway to the encyclopedia section, though, before a librarian approached us.

“Sorry, children are not allowed up here,” she said to me, sternly, and blocking our path to the encyclopedias.

My oldest children are 16 and 12, so not exactly “children-children” but whatever. I replied, calmly.

“Oh, they need to use the reference section though for a research paper. We can just grab the books and go downstairs to a table if that’s okay.”

“It’s not,” she said. “Reference books are not allowed off the second floor. And children are not allowed up here. They can utilize reference materials at their own schools.”

“We homeschool. Seriously? Children aren’t allowed to use the reference books?”

“I didn’t say that. I said children aren’t allowed up here and reference books are not allowed downstairs. Your children will have to vacate the floor immediately.”

At this point another librarian came over to me and explained – more politely, I will add – that the problem is that the public use computers are paid for by tax payer dollars, which means they cannot have any real controls on them. This means that a large number of adults at the library have to be assumed to be using computers to look at pornography. And exposing children to pornography is – obviously – illegal.

So no kids allowed on the second floor. Ever.

(The thing about the reference books, I can’t explain.)

Today’s Unfortunate Incident

Today I brought my kids to the library to check out some reading books. After the reference incident, we’ve mostly just utilized the library for fiction and non-fiction books of interest, and for the required high school reading that my oldest daughter is doing.

We’ve tried a few of the reading times they have for toddlers, too; though it only reminded me of how loud and unruly small children are allowed to be in our library. I’ve seen kids running around in circles. I’ve seen kids rolling around on the floor. I’ve seen kids lying in a group on the floor to read. I’ve seen kids laying on the couches with their feet in the air. I’ve seen kids ripping pages out of books. I’ve seen it all.

Generally speaking, we are in and we are out.

Today was going to be no exception. The difference, of course, was that on the way there, we had stopped for my toddler to get blood work for allergies. He was not in a particularly good mood. But when we got to the library he was quiet and cooperative. He had his Kindle Fire and it was on silent.

As my two older kids stood at the computer designated for looking up call numbers, I stood there with my little guy sitting at my feet.

As I said, he was not in a very good mood, so I wasn’t going to fight with him to stand. It was a pretty clean tile floor. He was literally between my legs, sitting quietly. Looking at his Kindle.

Meanwhile, other children were screaming. Running around. One child was crying.

Mine was quiet. Looking at his Kindle. Between my legs, right there. Waiting patiently for the girls to get their call numbers so we could find their books and get out of there.

Less than a minute went by and a stocky woman stalked over to me from the check out desk.

“Hi yes, are you mom?”

“Yes.”

“He can’t be there.”

“I’m sorry?”

“On the floor like that. He’ll have to sit in a chair, stand, or leave.”

I’m starting to get a little bit of a complex here about people kicking my toddler out of places. I don’t know what exactly it is about us or him that makes people say he has to leave, but this is twice now (the first being the incident with him being scared on the Polar Express last month).

Other kids do literally the same shit right there right in front of us, and get away with it.

We act polite and nicely, and are asked to do something different, or leave.

The loudest people are invariably the ones that come out ahead.

I looked around, as I had when we walked in. There was not a single available seat for him (remember that thing about the teen center taking away a large portion of the seating areas?). He was certainly not going to stand.

So we left. I told my daughters we would come back later, when my little guy had gone down for his nap with my dad.

But I also got in the car and cried. I cried because this is not how libraries are supposed to be. They may not be quiet places for book lovers to spend hours perusing and reading through books at no cost, anymore.

But they are still a public respite paid for by our tax dollars.

And more than that, I cried because I’m trying my best here. I’m raising three kids, mostly alone. I do everything I can to comply with all the rules and educate and care for my kids, and sometimes – yes – I choose my battles and let my kid sit on the fucking ground. Wow. Call the police on that one. The point is that if I had fought with him to stand up, he would have started screaming and acting like one of the other many brats there. Or, I could have not gone to the library today, and then I would be denying my older children their educational materials. Or… or… or…

The local library is one of the few places left in our community that access to education and information is supposed to be readily available. They are supposed to be a safe place, as well. A place where people of all interests and places in life can go and feel comfortable. Where the homeless can find a warm chair to read the paper in for a while, or teenagers can have a safe spot to do their homework after school.

Or homeschooled kids can access reference materials.

I get the challenges that are faced in running a place like that which is wholly open to the public, and all of its bad sides.

But in the interest of – I don’t even know what – they are turning it into a place that is only for certain people. People who look at pornography. Adults without children. Adults with young children who also will loudly bully until they get their way.

Certainly, the library is not a place for homeschooled kids to do research projects. “They can utilize the reference books at their own schools.” And moreover, the library is apparently not a spot for a mother to bring her kids to check out some books, while trying to keep her toddler happy and quiet for a few minutes, however she has to do it.

I say get rid of libraries as they’ve become now, and start over. I don’t know how they would start over, or what would address these inequities in treatment from one patron to another. I just know that there is something inherently not right about the experiences we’ve had and witnessed at our local library. The library isn’t supposed to be for just certain people, or particular circumstances. It’s supposed to be for everyone.

If it isn’t, then what exactly are we paying for?

Life was so much simpler back in 2011…

I don’t know, you guys. I’ve been going through my comments from the entire lifetime of my blog, and I’m getting so nostalgic for my posts of yore. Life was so much simpler then, you know?

I used to tackle some really important topics. Like whether or not there was a prostitution ring going on in my local nail salon. Honestly, I thought there was. This chick would come out of the back room and deep throat a banana like you have never seen.

Or whether or not my sister in law was really as dumb as I thought for saying that some vegetables aren’t healthy.

Or on the types and acceptability levels of the different types of hugs, Facebook profile photos, and number of pictures posted of babies in a given period of time. The list goes on… you get my point. My posts were way better back then.

Somewhere between then and now, things got so much more complicated. I no longer felt comfortable sharing simple anecdotes. Like the time this lady bent down and blew the proverbial butt bugle – if you know what I’m saying – at the post office.

People seemed to get offended every time I let out an expletive, or straight up wrote post after post after post wherein I just told – in the most offensive way possible – specific groups of people to shut the fuck up.

I guess life came to a point that was just incredibly complicated.

It seemed like every single thing I said offended someone. Isn’t that how life is now?

I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods a few weeks ago, picking up my monthly supply of sweat socks. I have two athletes (tennis players) in the house, and it’s like they are constantly running out of sweat socks. Or sweating through their socks. Or wearing multiple pairs to prevent blisters, dirtying all the pairs in the house in record time. I don’t really know what’s going on, I just know I had to eventually build sweat socks into the monthly budget.

So I was at Dick’s picking up the month’s supply, and there was a stocky woman in culotts with a very short A-line haircut, and something akin to a full beard, standing at the cash register, demanding to speak to the manager. She introduced herself as “Susan” (does a stocky woman in culotts with a very short A-line haircut, and something akin to a full beard, EVER have a name other than Susan?), and she wanted to complain because her expired coupon was not being honored.

Her. EXPIRED. Coupon. Was not. Being. Honored.

I didn’t hear her entire rant because another employee – Greg, also with a full beard, lives at home with his parents, and refers to himself as a “hobby computer engineer” – came over and checked me out. 

My interactions with Susan, however, were yet to come, because in the parking lot I was just putting my car in reverse when she came stalking out of the store (no merchandise had been purchased), huffing past my car. I had not even moved my car when she starting screaming at me to not back into her. I rolled my window down and said “oh sorry, I’m staying put.”

She told me to blow myself!

Hello 1995, someone is stuck in you.

I was so shocked, I told her she didn’t have to be so angry. I’m normally not that confrontational, but I was speaking from a place of being totally stunned. I mean this lady told me to blow myself – who even talks like that anymore?

My immediate response was to come home and write a blog about it. But as with most times I’ve run home to fire up a scathing post, I’ve stopped short of the publish button, simply for fear of offending someone, or eliciting a nasty response.

Who knows? I’m sure I have many women named Susan that follow my blog. Or women that are stocky and wear culottes. Certainly people with beards would take what I’m saying the wrong away, especially ones that are women. And what if I said something weird about the sweat socks? Surely there are children in need somewhere that could better benefit from those socks than my children…

Life was so much simpler back in 2011…

… really, I think it isn’t just that it was simpler, but I had a tougher skin back then. I could be told by commenters that they hoped I was mauled to death by a herd of wild cats in the street, and just shrug it off.

That is why I’ve decided to start a weekly video blog series to help return to my simpler, more offensive and less intimidated, self as a writer. Together we will get through this pansy ass state I have found myself.

Every Thursday I will post a v-log on my YouTube channel (and on here), where we will explore the nastiest of the nasty comments I get. My inaugural episode will drop next Thursday – Thursday, November 22nd (Thanksgiving!)… and I promise it contains some of the worst of the worst.

Repeat After Me: It’s OK If People Want To Do Christmas Early

Ugh.

I am so sick and tired of people and their popular shit to be upset about on the Internet.

Like really.

As many of you know, Halloween was just a couple of days ago. I, personally, had a great Halloween. As in, I didn’t do shit. My kids dressed up in their annual themed costumes the week prior for a Halloween party at the tennis club (see below), and didn’t even decide to go trick or treating until pretty much the day prior.

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But my older kids are old enough to just go out with friends on their own, and the baby was way too young…I mean he probably would have had fun looking at all the kids out and about (he loves kids), but the last thing I wanted to do was run the risk of hearing some local asshole tell me “he’s too young for candy, it’s obviously for you.”

So I stayed home with the baby. We had not one trick or treater.

Sure enough though, the very next day I logged on to the good ol’ Facebook and every asshole was bitching and complaining about people jumping straight over Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I present to you just a few examples of the oh-so-clever memes I saw that morning:

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First thing, I get it. I. Get. It. A lot of people feel overwhelmed with Christmas, what with all the merry and joy and shit going around. I also understand completely that here in America, we love our Thanksgiving.

But there are a few things to consider.

1. America is not the only goddamned country on this stupid planet; really now when will you people get that?

The Thanksgiving celebrated at the end of November is an American holiday.

American.

Which means that if people over in France or Great Britain or Uganda or China or Iceland or – I don’t know – any country or province other than fucking America wants to start getting all jazzed and shit about the holiday season, why must we begrudge them?

The thing about the Internet is that it’s not an American-only thing, which means the constant griping and bitching about people skipping American Thanksgiving and heading on to Christmas on the Internet is seen by everyone, universally. Why should they have to listen to that shit? Why, I ask?

2. Did it ever occur to you people that the holidays are stressful, in part, because of how quickly they go by?

Especially when you are a parent, it is so hard to cram everything in.

There are the holiday events, the school plays (we homeschool, so thankfully don’t have those), the holiday shopping…oh wait, more holiday shopping, the outdoor lights, the indoor decorations, the Christmas parties with friends, Christmas parties for work, Christmas parties with family, nightly Elf on the Shelf nonsense, the cookie baking, the candy making…not to mention every day life and the onset of cold and flu season.

Life is fucking busy enough as is. Then you add the pressure and stress of getting all that other crap done for the holidays, it seems only reasonable that it would – or potentially could – be more enjoyable and much less stressful if we were given more than a few fucking weeks to get it all done.

3. Your reasons aren’t everyone else’s reasons. Narcissists.

There are people celebrating Christmas in the middle of June because they’ve been given one week to live and wanted nothing more than one more Christmas with their family.

That’s an extreme one, but can any of you get out of your own piddly lives for -like- one minute and consider that other people have different lives, and therefore different reasons for doing things?

Including getting geared up for Christmas early.

For us, our house has been a little glum lately. My husband’s grandfather – the kids’ great grandfather – died about a month ago, his funeral was just last weekend. It’s gloomy in our house. Beyond that, the busy season is in full gear at Nick’s job, meaning he’s gone or asleep for almost 18-20 hour periods, every day and night of the week.

We need some fucking cheering up around here, which was why I decided to let the kids pull out the Christmas stuff the day after Halloween, and why I cranked up the Christmas jams playlist on Spotify today while we worked on crafts for the baby’s birthday party.

And plus, my kid fucking enjoy Christmas. It’s OK for me to extend that a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Like really, their extra merriment is not a detriment to society. I promise.

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I guess I’m just getting sick and goddamned tired of everyone in this world thinking they can tell other people how to live their lives.

Or, if someone does something another person or two doesn’t approve of, that everyone and their mother has a right to question the legitimacy of that person’s decisions. Then it goes viral on the Internet and suddenly it’s like a culturally taboo thing to do whatever it was a couple people from the get go didn’t like.

And above all, I’m tired of this idea that we can all just make fun of and shame people into doing exactly what we want them to do.

So someone decides to decorate their own home before Thanksgiving. How in the actual fuck does this affect you? Really. How?

Does it force you to decorate your own home?

Does it cancel all of your Thanksgiving plans?

I cannot see any single scenario in which another person’s choices on Christmas shopping or decoration or Christmas movie-watching or Christmas music-listening or Christmas anything for that matter affects your, or anyone else’s, life. I just don’t see it.

Worry about your own shit. For real guys.

Repeat after me: it’s OK if people want to do Christmas early.

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