Mr. Madden, in his Oct. 4 column, seems to begrudge the Aspen library’s plans to expand, at a time when “reading is in decline” (are you sure?) and libraries’ raison d’être (i.e. their book collections) are threatened by digital competition (like newspapers, right?). He emphasizes that libraries are about free stuff and services — actually, a perceptive observation. Libraries are driven not by profit motives but by the desire to serve, traditionally in areas of literacy and learning. They’re not free exactly: Someone is paying for the lights, staff, and collections, but since it’s a community enterprise it feels free.
Madden’s suggestion to add beds for the homeless in the library, however, smacks of re-visioning Aspen’s library as the one-stop shop for all of society’s ills. True, libraries already serve as de facto shelters for the homeless in cities across the country — during the day. They are also already employment centers; public library usage during the economic downturn has been at an all-time high. Job-seekers appreciate the access to computers and other resources for their searches. But let’s not be too ham-handed about it. Great libraries are jewels in the crown of their communities, but they’re places to visit, not to stay around the clock. We’ll keep a light on for you, though.
Keep visiting your local valley libraries, Mr. Madden. Your writing and research skills may even be honed as a consequence.