Editorial: Leechburg library closing is sad commentary
There may be no sadder commentary on the changing way we consume information than the demise of a local library.
A library is one of those touchstone places that speaks to how a community comes together.
Move to a new town and you have a list of things you need to find. Where do I vote? Where do I worship? Where does my kid go to school? Where can I borrow a copy of a good book? In a small town, chances are at least two of those are in the same building.
And so it was with Leechburg, where the public library was in the high school. It was open to the public after school four nights a week. At least it was until the doors closed Thursday after 93 years of putting books in the hands of readers.
The “many circumstances” weren’t specified in the announcement, but the president of the board of trustees said reasons included concrete things such as parking and operating hours and the more difficult hurdle of waning interest in utilizing the library.
At a time when so many people walk around with a phone that could store the complete works of Shakespeare and offer videos of Neil deGrasse Tyson expounding on physics and allow you to explore your family tree with a click and a password, it is perhaps reasonable to see a building with books that you read for two weeks as outdated.
A 2016 Pew Research Center survey showed that 66% of Americans thought closing libraries would have some impact on them and their families.
But those same people saw the library as an asset beyond their own walls, with 91% saying the closed doors would impact their community and 66% saying it would be a major impact.
When Pennsylvania has had those all-too-regular budget crises, libraries felt the pinch, and so did their customers, many of whom needed access to computers or internet to do school work or fill out job applications.
Unlike some of its sisters, the Leechburg library didn’t rely on government money. The school district didn’t charge rent. It was simply fewer and fewer people coming in to wander through the biographies and the mysteries and the romance.
And that might be the saddest thing of all.