, Salem, MA

February 4, 2013

Letter: Peabody can't afford to lose library

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I was disheartened that some council members question the relevance of the Peabody Institute Library (“Library repairs overdue”). Inquiring whether libraries are relevant in the digital age makes the assumption that libraries are only used to borrow books, but the Peabody Institute Library has moved beyond the exchange of hard-covers and paperbacks.

The Peabody library recognizes that it’s in a unique position to be at the forefront of the information age while simultaneously combating the isolation the digital age engenders. The library has become a physical and virtual community space. With individuals pressured to have email addresses and companies offering Internet-only promotions, the Peabody library offers free Internet access to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity. It lets anyone with a digital device borrow e-books and other digital media and offers classes that teach digital literacy, making the library more relevant in the information age.

As a longtime patron, I’ve used the Peabody library for personal enrichment classes led by experienced professionals. I look forward to the library-led book and film discussion groups I attend with like-minded enthusiasts. I’ve received amazing recommendations from librarians beyond books, including events and local happenings. People often forget that while the Internet offers terabytes of information at a glance, librarians sort through that info and guide its patrons to meaningful, relevant data. It’s this personal touch that makes the library a keystone, allowing people to connect not just with information, but with people and their community as well.

I recommend that members of the council subscribe to the Peabody library events newsletter before making a decision on its worth. The Peabody library has value beyond its historical significance. The question shouldn’t be if the library is relevant or even if Peabody can afford more repairs. The question should be: Can Peabody afford to lose it?

Alysa Hayden