Monroe Street branch of the public library--in its defense

Letter emailed to the mayor on 14 August 2008

Mayor Dave,

I just saw the article in the Cap Times about the threatened existence of the Monroe Street branch of the public library. IMO, that would be the wrong way for Madison to save money.

The humble physical presence of the Monroe Street branch belies the positive influence it has on our community. You can pick up books, CDs, videos, and magazines from the entire South Central Wisconsin library system. It is like a gigantic public library that happens to be housed in an unglamorous little store front. If you spend only a little time hanging out there you'll see that it's a hub for people of all ages and all walks of life--every size and race of kid and every kind of adult from on-the-go quick drop-bys to retired folks relaxing with newspapers or getting their computer fix. And what a superb location. You'll see them come and go by every form of conveyance--foot, bikes, bike trailers, bus (there's a stop directly in front of the window), and even automobile. It is the only branch that invites this range of accessibility.

And don't forget the staff. Of course they do what you imagine all librarians do. But they also process the large crates of materials that are exchanged with other branches every day; these contain active lending materials whose volume per patron and per square foot are surely among the highest in the system. And they help us with our one-off problems--locating that particular issue of that particular magazine or whatever. Never an idle moment, no finger twiddling, no web surfing, no catching up on personal reading. It is an efficient operation.

The tiny Monroe Street branch deserves better. It's an urban beacon, bringing us together and nurturing us like nothing else in the city. If you close it, Madison will be a colder, darker place.

Chamond Liu
202 North Spooner Street