WWNO skyline header graphic
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local Newscast
Hear the latest from the WWNO/WRKF Newsroom.

Your Thoughts On The Future Of New Orleans Public Libraries

Jesse Hardman

On Saturday, May 2 Orleans Parish residents will vote on whether to fund local public libraries through a property tax hike. It would raise around $8 million a year for the library system, for the next 25 years.

According to New Orleans Public Library officials, a yes vote would:

  • increase hours of operation by 30 percent.
  • allow for reopening of Nora Navra library in city's 7th Ward, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina.
  • allow some libraries to be open 7 days a week.

A no vote would mean:

  • some of the library branches could close.
  • a potential 35 percent decrease in operation hours.

Larry Neal is the President of the Public Library Association, based in Michigan. He says library systems that aren’t fully funded lose public interest. They never seem to have the books you want, or their hours are always changing.
"Sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that, oh is it not valid anymore, they're not doing a good job, their computers are out of date," Neal says. "Well, libraries do require resources, and you get what you pay for. And if the community turns that down, then the library is going to reflect that. You can judge the quality of a community by its public library."

There is opposition to the library millage. The Bureau of Government Research in New Orleans says libraries are important, especially in a high-poverty city, but the police consent decree and other bills hanging over the city’s head need to be considered, too.

Janet Howard is president and CEO of BGR. She wants to see a more fleshed-out plan from the library.

"BGR is supportive of a properly funded library system, however we think the library system should develop a strategic plan that analyzes not just where they are, but what they need to do to become a 21st century system before they go back to voters. And we have suggested that be done, and they return to voters in the fall."

She also notes the city administration and city council can fund the library through general funds.

There was a HUGE turnout at the Listening Post this past week. We’ve gotten the largest response, probably ever, on a topic.

Credit Jesse Hardman
Listening Post text survey

This time, we asked people whether or not libraries are still relevant. We also wanted to know which libraries people go to, and what they do when they’re there.

Here's what people texted us on the topic. 

Are public libraries still necessary? Why or why not? 

-Yes, extremely! When I was unemployed, the Harahan library was the only place I could go to use the computer for free. I would spend a couple of hours every day submitting resumes.

-Yes. Books from the library widen a person's horizons. A person is not frequently going to go to a bookstore to buy everything he thinks might be interesting, but you can do that at a library and find that something you knew nothing about is absolutely fascinating.

-The number of services offered online increases daily, as does the amount of information one can access online. While personal computer ownership also increases, many residents are still without means to afford a computer & Internet access. Still other residents are unfamiliar with how to utilize the Internet. Computers & assistants using them is just one vital importance of a well funded library.

-Public libraries are always necessary. Library cards are free, and many of my kids do not have access to a lot of books at home. Because of public libraries, my kids (students) have a free and safe place to read and study with friends

-Very necessary! For public access to books and internet - to knowledge!

-Yeah we're are the youth supposed to go to stay off the street due to lack of after school and summer programs for teens and young children

-Yes they are. When we don't value reading and stop appreciating books, this will have long far reaching negative consequences on this city. This will bring on more ignorance which brings poverty. Poverty cause the best and brightest of our children to leave our city.

-YES! YES! YES! They are so very important! The Internet cannot replace the library. Libraries have many digital databases that the Internet doesn't. Real books are still and always will be the best for reading. Plus the library offers so many other programs.

-Yes!!!! American people deserve free access to information

-Libraries may not be necessary, but people still love them. Books. People will never really stop loving books. We now can download a book from about any device. There's Google Play Books, Apple iBook's, the Amazon Kindle bookstore, but people still mostly use books. But I think its the smell and touch. The smell of old books never gets old.

-Public libraries give everyone something they need and a space to share

-Mmmmm yes but more and more people are reading books online

-Yes..Because some families can't afford computers nor pay for the cost of having Internet services

-Public libraries have never been more vital than now - I never go but

-Access to information resources is a basic human right. It used to be an American value. Funding libraries and schools is part of USA's social contract and a democratic mandate.

-Public libraries are VERY NECESSARY!!! People use them for so many things and although many seek them for books they've become community centers where people use computers to apply for jobs, bring their children to storytime, seek community information to name a very few.

-Yes because they offer access to information

-Yes because they supply computer services to people who cannot afford to buy one. Computers are key to employment and education

-Yes. The majority of my high school students use them. NOMMA teacher.

-Yes cause if you don't have access to a computer at home you can have one there


-Yes, they are still necessary for those unable to afford their own books or internet and still in search of knowledge. The divide between rich and poor, aware and unaware, only widens when public access to educational materials diminishes. Plus, I still value the idea of a truly quite, solitary place to unwind and visit with the self without the expectation of human-to-human interaction

-Yes for sources of books u can't purchase

-YES, libraries are completely necessary for a functioning society. They offer books (which are a public good in their own right), services relating to literacy, preservation, general reference, local historical reference, computers for those who have none, job-finding services, printing services, computer training resources, wireless Internet for those doing research, DVDs and books on tape and other visual media, a meeting space, a quiet space, a safe space, an air-conditioned space, free restrooms, etc etc.

-Yes they are absolutely necessary. Libraries are the repository of recorded language in our culture. Every man, woman and child should have access to free books. New books and periodicals need to be purchased frequently so ALL have.

-Not necessary

-Yes, public libraries are free learning centers. Without them, the city lives in ignorance and despair.

-Yes!! They provide valuable learning tools, community space, and services for the entire community.

-Public libraries are about more than books. They are about community, learning from one another, and public access to resources for EVERYONE. Plus librarians rock! They go above and beyond in their duties, they speak out against censorship and fight government spying. We still need these institutions and the smart independent people who operate them!


-I guess

-Yes libraries ARE necessary! We have a huge illiterate population and that is what politicians and those who like to control others (this could be family, religious leaders and others who like to use others.... think carpetbaggers - yhose who took advantage of the population after Katrina, Issac and the oil spill that caused many family businesses to be almost destroyed) While helping these folks we found so many that signed, even now with just an X all their papers. State government has tried to destroy the education system of Louisiana and this would be the death knell if the libraries closed.

-Yes. I don't like to purchase every book that I want to read.

-Yes, they provide communication and media services for those who don't have them.

-Absolutely necessary. For many people it is their only access to the internet, movies, and books

What library do you go to? What do you do there? 

-Harahan. Use the computer, check out movies.

-I go to the Latter library and the children's resource center to pick up books that I reserved on line

-Public libraries also serve as a means of research & entertainment for students who might otherwise not find them on their campus.

-I do not have a card, so I pick books with my friend and she adds them to hers 

-I go to the library in the CBD

-Latter memorial and Alvar. Browse!

-Main library on Tulane I read use computers that I don't have at home for homework I print things for school I read and find books for projects outside reading

-New Orleans East. I Check out books, read with my grandsons. I also do research and other paper work that I can't do at home.

-Nix, Milton, Hubbell, & Keller.

-I go to the Rosedale Library in Jefferson. I go there because I only need to ride my bike a couple of blocks to get there and back.

-Terrebonne parish main branch. Read

-I go downtown and to mid city and I study and read all the magazines I can't afford

-The black diamond library. Check or books for school usually

-I don't go to the library. .I own a computer

-Nah man

-Every library in the GNO : ) Jefferson and Orleans

-I go to the Norman Mayer library in Gentilly. I check out books, DVDs, music CDs, use many of their online services.

-Norman Meyer or the Main library

-Central city branch. Check out dvds and books and use the printer/copier

-Gentilly branch Check out books.

-main brach in houma or the north branch in gray research

-Midcity or main, usually. I go to pick up books or use the copier.

-I go to the Latter branch on St. Charles. *quiet

-Latter branch

-North beach library Houma , la I go to meeting there

-East iberville library

-Main branch: checking out books, printing in emergencies, used Internet when I didn't have it in my apartment. Mid City branch: checking out books, some reading & writing, printing in a pinch.

-Nix, Keller and latter. I read the newspapers and use the computers.

-Leading up to MLK Day, my son had lots of questions about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement so I checked out an age appropriate book about Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

-Rosa Keller Library and Community Center. I check out books for myself and my son, pick up resources like the Parents Guide, and facilitate a weekly Spanish conversation group there.

-Love the activities at the Children's Resource Center

-Metairie main branch

-The one off of St. Charles that was a home turned library

-The library in Lakeview. I check out books and let my son play in the children's corner

-I normally go to the Lakeview library on Harrison to do resesrch or check out videos

-I'm at the main branch several times a week. Books, DVDs & computer time

When's the last time you checked something out from the library? What did you check out?

-The last time was about two months ago. I checked out "My Brilliant Friend".

-It's been a while, but it was movies.

-2011, research for a Graduate Studies project

-I check out books or help my friends pick books

-Last month I check out book with my grandsons. Juvenile book. Also went their to do paper work.

-Friday and a book about Lamumba first PM of Africa

-Didn't check out

-I researched information there the last time and didn't have to check out.

-I checked out "From Casablanca to Berlin" about 2 or 3 weeks ago.

-Last week Call me borroughs book on tape

-Ummmm a week ago for my podcast class

-No checkouts

-I go online to read book..but its been a while

-The last time I checked something out was about a month ago. It was a GRE prep book

-A couple weeks ago I checked out The Master And Margarita, delivered to the Mid City branch. About to renew it.

-I have personal internet access, so I use the library for access to books. Every 2 weeks I make a trip to return and check out.

-Today and several children's books and CDs.

-Art of War 8 months ago

-Last week. Mad men season 5 dvd

-Cooking books. About 4 months ago.

-i don't remember

-I checked out the book "Tomlinson hill" several weeks ago.

-Yesterday and a movie

-The alligator book begging of this month

-It has been awhile since I checked out a book. When I do I check out fiction and non-fiction.

-2012, I check out a study guide to help me with my col license

-About a month ago. A book called born fighting

-Yesterday Some DVDs.

-The Most Magnificent Thing

-Last month. A book

-History of Louisiana. Film making books

-I think it was January 2015 and a book about New Orleans brewery history

-Something by don delillo a year or two back

-I check out videos. Last time I went was january

-6 DVDs. French cinema, a docu about George Takei, some action flick. Stuff like that

-Last week. Audio book of M.O. Walsh's My Sunshine Away

-Reading Hurston's "Of Mules & Men" right now

-A few months ago, David Carr's The Night of the Gun

Credit Jesse Hardman / WWNO
Computer users at the Rosa Keller library in Broadmoor.

It’s a little-known Listening Post life hack, but when you get our text message, instead of texting us back, you can call and leave audio answers from your phone. Or you can just call us and get our questions at 504-303-4348.

A couple of folks did just that, here's what they said. 

LP Participant who thinks public libraries are no longer relevant.
Comment from LP participant who answered our library questions by phone.

We ain’t trippin’. Keeping it very very real over here.

That’s all for this week. Check out thereading list we made from books Listening Posters have been checking out.

To join our project text ‘hello’ to 504-303-4348. 

Until next time...

The Listening Postis a collaboration between WWNO and Internews. Funding is provided by the Pennington Family Foundation.

As the new Coastal Reporter, Jesse Hardman will draw on 15 years of worldwide experience in radio, video and print journalism. As a radio reporter he has reported for NPR, BBC, and CBC, and for such familiar programs as Marketplace, This American Life, Latino USA, and Living on Earth. He served as a daily news reporter and news magazine producer for WBEZ in Chicago.

👋 Looks like you could use more news. Sign up for our newsletters.

* indicates required
New Orleans Public Radio News
New Orleans Public Radio Info