I love libraries. I loved them when they were simple, quiet repositories of books and articles, and I love them now that they are the resource of choice for people needing computer access and printers.
For 26 years I have valued the library at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where I have taught college-level writing classes to military personnel seeking to advance through education. So it came as a distinctly unpleasant shock to learn that this valued resource on the base was closed as of June 14.
My students were the first to tell me. They said that first the movie theater had been closed "for lack of funds," and now the library was shutting. At the library they confirmed the closure, everyone slightly unbelieving but already saddened. Why, I wondered, had we not heard anything about this in the newspapers? Wasn't this important enough to be publicized?
I was invited to send an email of protest to those higher up with some power over this closure. I even checked the little box that requested a reply. But time has gone by, the library has been closed despite protests, and no one has replied to my message.
Our military personnel often cite higher education as a major reason why they joined the military. Higher education requires use of a library, including use of computers, to conduct the research so essential to learning how to deal with complex ideas and writing papers about these ideas.
For many at Davis-Monthan, the base library has been the safe, convenient haven where they can go to learn. Our public libraries are excellent and well-distributed throughout the city, but they take time, planning and a car to reach. For so many students, both civilian and military, the base library has been far more convenient and accessible. And the librarians have always been happy to help a new student learn to navigate the research system. Their kindness and patience with students has made all the difference between students experiencing excited discovery and students becoming discouraged for lack of guidance and support.
In addition, over the years I have encountered numerous students, again both civilian and military, who for different reasons have not had access to a printer. Yet their instructors expect papers and projects to be printed clearly on appropriate paper. Without the library's printers and other equipment, these students would have been unable to meet the most basic requirements of their classes. Their gratitude for this free service has been boundless and genuine.
I do not know how much money may be saved by shutting the base library. But I do know that making it more difficult for military personnel to pursue their education is not the right way to treat them. It is also not a wise way to invest in the future of this country. So this is my call to reopen the library at Davis-Monthan. Let us support our soldiers, not close the very resources that help them to succeed.
Kendra Gaines is an adjunct instructor at Pima Community College.