Some people may not connect the two. But I believe the two are very intertwined. Modern libraries provide all sorts of activities, opportunities, and services for youth and adults. These are not just limited to books, but to all sorts of multi- media and technology activities. They also help bridge the digital divide and provide opportunities for residents to access potential jobs.
An excellent report on this is called Long Overdue which was prepared by Public Agenda.
Many libraries today have "teen only" areas where young adults get to enjoy things that they like, in a safe structured environment that fosters inquisitiveness, knowledge and collaboration. These are not huge money items, they just take knowledgeable library staff, and a commitment to do it, and to spend some money and effort to reach out to the community to make kids aware of the facilities and the opportunities.
Many cities in America and around the world have realized the importance of libraries to their social fabric. Unfortunately, Menino has not prioritized our libraries, getting to the point that his head of the libraries called him "anti-intellectual."
Not a good sign when you are trying to be the Athens of America.
As Councilor Yoon has mentioned, the City of Seattle has completely revamped their entire library system. They have built energy efficient buildings with exciting designs. It started in 1998 when the Seattle voters voted in a referendum to spend 290 million dollars to rebuild the Seattle Public Library. One of the most amazing things about the report that the Library System came out with about the success of the system it doesn't mention the Mayor's name once!! it just says thanks to 'the Mayor and City Council' as part of a long list of people to thank. Menino would never let that happen!
If we really want to do something spectacular for the City of Boston, something to cement our place as an intellectual capital, and a place that values its citizens, our civic life, and the quest for knowledge we should think about introducing a proposition 2.5 override vote to fund a revamping of our own Library System.
Of course, I would favor an open bidding process on both the the design and construction and strict enforcement of the Boston Jobs Policy if we actually got to the point that we could build.
I'm particularly enamored with libraries. When my parents divorced, my mom didn't have money for baby sitters and she would often have my brother and I stay for hours at the Library until she got out of work. We didn't have a television either, so it was natural for us to check out books and then read them at home. My love for reading started early, I remember curling up in corners and feeling special because I got to read books from the adults section. I still use my local library here in the South End often, getting hardcover books recently by Richard Dawkins and Jared Diamond. While my wife and I were traveling around the world we were particularly impressed with libraries in England and Scotland where we could use the computers and do research on local points of interest.
Studies have shown that citizens highly value libraries in their community and will support efforts to fund them. Let's bring this issue to the voters!