Libraries and shared access programs: investments in people

Whether you are for taxes or not, everyone can agree that libraries are great (except silverfish, which would prefer the books to be stored in their digestive systems instead). Public libraries, research libraries, school libraries, you name it. Not only do they provide more books than you will read in your lifetime, they also have great atmospheres for readers to lose themselves in, along with other resources. As Arthur (the famous PBS Kids cartoon character) once said, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” Today, I will be discussing two libraries in particular: the Seeley G. Mudd Library and the Appleton Public Library. I will also cover a concept essential to libraries: shared access.

The Mudd Library has numerous services available to students, a handful of which I will cover here. Obviously, the Mudd is a great studying area for Lawrentians, with more or less four floors to choose from, each of which is quieter than the last, the higher you go. However, there is more to the Mudd than meets the eye. On the first floor, students can access The Makerspace — a place for creative and technical endeavors (e.g. sewing, soldering, 3D printing, etc.) — a large movie collection and the Milwaukee-Downer Room. The second floor offers the Information Technology Center, a computer lab and a group-study room. There is more to be found in the Mudd (e.g. an art gallery) and I encourage students to take some time out of their busy days to explore its facilities on their own. For more information, you can also read “The Mudd and Me” on the Lawrentian website.

At the Appleton Public Library (APL), Lawrentians can sign up for a library card with their Student ID. It is only a mile-long walk from Warch, at 100 N. Appleton St, Appleton, WI 54911. I, myself, do not have the time to look through their collection, being bogged down with homework and all, but their online services alone are fantastic. Most are digital libraries containing vast collections for library card holders to browse, but also include movies, audiobooks, comics, TV shows and music, too. There is even an indie movie streaming service available. Furthermore, there are language and instrument learning apps, as well as a collection of royalty-free music for media production.

These resources are enough to make anyone dizzy with all the possibilities of what you can do. Many Lawrentians are probably too busy to make their way to the public library every time they want to access one of its resources, so it is paramount that the APL recognizes the need to transition to the internet. For that, I give them 5 stars. The building itself is a great place to read a good book and is a nice part of Appleton for Lawrentians to immerse themselves in. Community members can attend events each week and enjoy the indoor garden whenever they want. The library will always be there for Lawrentians to appreciate. All-in-all, I would say the APL is a good use of tax-payer’s money.

Libraries have existed for centuries in the US, and yet they are an outlier in our increasingly capitalist and privatized society. It is perhaps axiomatic to observe that public libraries are only allowed to exist our social system because of the long-held belief that knowledge is common to all and should be shared with the public. Libraries are one of the only cases of the concept of “shared access” in the US, however, wherein resources are shared amongst the public, to be used when needed. In a world of copyright laws, “intellectual property” and consumerism, shared access is foreign to many. Take, for example, Lawrence’s own Film Studies (FIST) program.

By mere enrollment in a FIST class, students can borrow film equipment; essentially, it is a system analogous to libraries. This service enables students to create films, short videos and more while bypassing the heavy costs of the film equipment. This is the beauty of shared access programs, because they centralize and allocate resources to people who would otherwise be unable to afford them. Furthermore, they’re better for the environment. Normally a person purchases film equipment for their individual use; this behavior is replicated by all the other people who need to create films. With shared access, though, a smaller quantity of that equipment is bought and shared between people, conserving our planet’s finite resources. If this system of shared access were applied more widely, perhaps on the level of public libraries, the potential for creative work could increase drastically.

The application of shared access programs serves to change the way our society operates. For instance, many American households unnecessarily have one car for each resident. With a shared access system available, and given the upcoming advent of self-driving cars, however, people could request a car, presumably on a phone app, and be driven to their destination. Cars would be stored at a local parking garage and would return to the nearest storage unit once their task is accomplished, waiting for the next pedestrian in need of their services. Personally, I am a fan of investing in public transportation until it meets standards similar to those in Japan, but shared access to cars is a good alternative to what we have now. There would be far fewer cars in the marketplace than there are today and emissions would be cut down significantly — especially if shared access to cars was extended to carpooling.

In addition to libraries, shared access has the potential to cut down on wasteful consumption of our planet’s resources and to enable people of lower-class status to live a more fulfilling life. It also facilitates social progress and innovation because a greater input in ideas and creativity pushes society forward. Ideally, we wouldn’t live in a social system wherein money would be moot. However, for those who oppose shared access and the increase in taxes it would inevitably bring, collective sharing would enable lower-class citizens to contribute to society in ways greater than subjecting them to low standards of living and meaningless jobs.


Article by Nero Gallagher