James Leheny: Libraries reflect the souls of communities

Thursday, September 23, 2021

At a time when our culture is awash with misinformation and distortions, when the thirst for profits or power prompts some people to distort facts and to debase language in order to disguise their greed or other painful realities, where is an average citizen to turn when she or he seeks to obtain reliable facts about anything? Social media? Local gossip? The office water cooler?

Most of us learn about the realities of our world first from our families, then from our schools and churches. We trust these institutions to inform us and to guide us. But once we have left home and have graduated from school, and our attendance at church has dwindled to weddings, funerals and a few major holidays — where do we turn to get a better understanding about a world that’s radically different from what our parents, teachers and pastors may have described?

At a recent meeting with people in Amherst, Congressman Jim McGovern said he believed that public libraries reflected the souls of the communities that built them and maintained them. No one at the meeting disagreed with him because education and accurate information are the bedrock of any democracy. Demagogs flourish where people are kept ignorant.

Where in any community can citizens dependably obtain current and accurate facts? The answer is not complicated — we can go directly to your nearest public library. The need for accurate facts, described in comprehensible, precise language has never been greater. And the need for a larger, better public library in Amherst is now more important than ever. A good public library is not just useful. It’s essential to our democracy.

Vote “Yes” for the renovation and expansion of the Jones Library on Nov. 2.

James Leheny