Paying homage to public libraries for helping us get through the worst of the pandemic

A library provides resources, like wifi and online classes, that people need to manage a crisis in the short term. Long-term, a library provides social infrastructure so that a community is healthy and vibrant.

SHARE Paying homage to public libraries for helping us get through the worst of the pandemic
The newly renovated Chicago Public Library’s Merlo Branch in Lakeview.

The newly renovated Chicago Public Library’s Merlo Branch in Lakeview. Libraries are essential social infrastructure, as we learned during the pandemic, a reader from Woodstock writes.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As stores and offices around the area shut down during Illinois’ shelter-in-place order, one building in my small suburban town remained busy: the library.

Patrons couldn’t enter the building, but our library staff made sure all of the residents were still being served. They moved their wi-fi router so kids doing e-learning and people looking for jobs could access the internet from the parking lot. They set up a makeshift food pantry on the front sidewalk. They organized curbside delivery and stepped up digital book offerings. They moved story time and yoga classes online.

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This is just a small sample of how libraries around Chicagoland have served their communities during the pandemic. As we saw here in Woodstock, a well-run library provides resources people need to manage a crisis in the short term. Perhaps more importantly, though, a library creates the kind of connections in a community that keep it healthy and vibrant in the long term.

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg has called this “social infrastructure”— public and private institutions that foster a sense of community. His research has shown that strong social infrastructure creates communities that are socially and economically vibrant, with citizens who are active and engaged. Those communities also tend to be safer, healthier, and more resilient in disasters.

Our libraries are an investment in community, in the individuals who live there and the social fabric that holds them together. They are essential services. We need them to survive and thrive.

The Woodstock library and hundreds of others in the region have proven during this pandemic that social infrastructure is a sound investment.

Jessica Campbell, Woodstock

Trump’s “embers”

President Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered this astounding claim about the coronavirus at a recent presidential press briefing: “We’re aware that there are embers that need to be put out.”

If 16 states are re-imposing public restrictions due to skyrocketing infections after opening too soon, I’d sure hate to see what, in the mind of the Trump administration, would constitute a raging fire. 

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

A Fourth, without the fireworks

All fireworks, including sparklers, are illegal in Chicago. Yet there was a quote in the paper recently that “Everyone should have the right to celebrate the 4th of July.” Fine. Have a BBQ, visit with a few friends, make a donation to a food pantry during these difficult times.

But it is hypocrisy if you thank a veteran for his or her service, then cause that veteran with PTSD great anxiety by setting off fireworks. If you really want to thank the heroic doctors and nurses fighting COVID-19, wear a mask — and make sure you aren’t in the emergency room because you got burned by fireworks. Have respect for your neighbors. Your right to celebrate does not mean that you can ruin their days and nights with loud noises. It is not celebratory to scare off dogs and other animals.

Do have a Happy 4th of July, but be kind yo your neighbors.

Bridget Ozolins, Norwood Park

Destroying statues

Just a few years ago we rightly condemned the Taliban as barbaric for bombing and destroying the art, statues, and cultural relics they considered “blasphemous.” Yet now we do the same here, tying chains to trucks and pulling the blasphemous artifacts down to broad cheers, without civil debate. 

Remember, every group that has ever destroyed another’s art and culture justifies it as the right thing to do. However seemingly noble, we are no better now.

Robert Vivalet, Hyde Park

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