Are libraries the last standing spaces of democracy?

Last week, I wrote about how American libraries are working on strengthening its work with the homeless for AssociationsNow.

The American Library Association has a history in addressing the issue of homelessness and has issued policies, standards, programs and more on the population in need. They’ve done strong work in helping libraries across the country welcome them into their spaces.

But, perhaps it means much more.

This quote, as told by the nation’s first social worker stationed at a library, struck me and my backing of public space + democratic standards:

‚ÄúLibraries are the last bastion of democracy.”

Think of it that way. Think of libraries as the last few public spaces in this country. (Especially with city spaces now posting rules post-Occupy.) What else do we have? The street? Parks? I’m not saying some should put on an occupation or protest in a library but think about the diminishing spaces for the first amendment, AKA democracy. (That’s for another post.)

They’re the kind of public space that is organized, educated, helpful and resourceful. It is a respectful, accepting, equal, and hospitable community space accessible for all.

Think of it this way. Think of libraries as the standing local spot that brags of its democratic standards. (Churches of democracy?) Everyone can access it and everyone is welcome. Everyone can learn from the sources hosted in the stacks and on the screens.

It is a refuge for the homeless, as I found in my reporting, but it can be a refuge for many other Americans. A friend texted me this:

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It made me think about what I learned in reporting for this piece. Libraries have gone unrecognized as an undeniably resourceful public space for many in today’s electronic and mobile age.

And imagine if these “bastions of democracy” were to disappear since we don’t recognize them for what they are? We do, after all, live in an e-book world and Google search world. (“Let me Google that for you…”)

What would be the next true public space? What would be the next standing ground of democracy? Live on, libraries. Live on.

On Global Higher Education

Today I learned that less than 40% of Americans hold a college degree.

The latest numbers out of the United States Census Bureau show 68 percent of Americans 25 years or older don’t have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s only 32 percent who do. The numbers from 2014 have the number jump a tad bit if we’re including American associate’s degrees. That makes it 62 percent without higher education.

And it gets worse, only about 7% of the world have a degree.

Citing statistics from 2010, it was found that 6.7 percent of people in the world can say they have higher education experience under their belt.

Thinking about it, that’s half a billion people out of a global population of seven billion plus. And that makes you stop for a second, more than six billion people didn’t go to college.

I am definitely grateful for my education and look forward to more. I currently hold a bachelor’s degree from a four-year private university. I plan to attend graduate school for a master’s sometime in the future.

Although, higher education sometimes isn’t all what its cracked up to be. It still doesn’t matter, billions and billions of people don’t have access to education and learning opportunities.

We just can’t feel or say it’s a public good. Because it’s not.

I feel us degree holders tend to stay in a bubble. While it’s good to surround ourselves around people who are educated and support our goals, it can make us not see the world for what it is. Reminder: Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not have a degree. More than 90 percent of the world’s population didn’t go somewhere for higher education.

I remember growing up and seeing college as a normal part of life. I went to school for about 16 years — started preschool at three, graduated high school at 19 years — before attending a university. The average number of years a child goes to school is between 8 and 11 years, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

College was always there for me. It was a part of my path to adulthood. Nearly everyone I knew attended a higher education program. After all, I am a white, middle-class Millennial living in a highly developed country. 59 percent of Millennials have attended/are attending college, according to to a study by Harvard University.

We can’t say we are privileged with our degrees. That’s because there are many people who have worked hard to get their higher education. They went into debt, got support, or received scholarships to cover the cost.

However, the discussion of higher education should take a look at these numbers. There billions who cannot have access to education because of strapped funds, limited options, rising admission costs, acceptance rates, local and personal education, and more.

Just imagine how degree holders are in a small, small exclusive circle with learning opportunities billions don’t have access to. Think of that for a second.