I love watching the show Parks and Recreation, I love that the characters remind me of my friends and myself, I love the depiction of government employees as both cynical and overachieving, I love the quirkiness of the town of Pawnee, but what I don’t love is that the show hates the library. Sure, it makes sense that the same town that has a raging public health crisis of its citizens putting their mouths on drinking fountains would also reject its public libraries. And Leslie Knope, as a politician representing these same people, would add to her campaign platform that she will close the library. And yes, of course there has to be the stereotypical depiction of the bitchy, anal-retentive librarian to illustrate the rift between city departments. But those beliefs and views about the library aren't fictional for many people.
In the real-world, public library employees constantly have to defend their jobs, and explain the relevance of the service that they provide to the community. And I understand why people are critical of how their tax money is spent – however, this is one service that everyone can and should actually use. Unlike hospitals, police and fire departments, the library is a valuable service that doesn’t require violence, tragedy, or sickness to be used. A lot like the Parks Department, only with more information and free stuff.
But really parks and libraries aren’t so different. Both offer free public space to anyone, both foster a sense of community, and both encourage exploration. Many libraries are located in public parks, creating a one-stop-shop for free public services. These libraries are usually much more aesthetically in touch with the surrounding neighborhood and serve to compliment to the park – and vice versa. In New York City the Parks Library, located in the middle of Central Park, has been a successful collaborative effort between the parks and library department since 1999. Not only is the library in the park, it also houses large collections of resources on parks and open spaces, urban planning, wildlife in urban areas, and has one of the largest collections of Parks Department materials that is open to the public. Pretty cool.
So maybe in Parks and Rec’s final season, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Pawnee Public Library will team up to put a teeny tiny library in the smallest park; and then Leslie and Ben will have to recreate their first kiss to christen it. In the meantime, Tammy and Ron will get back together and become a library/parks power couple. Tom will design the library’s new logo, and Anne will set up a free health clinic inside the library where Andy will be able to get a free rabies shot. April will petition for a collection of stray cats that Pawnee residents can check out with their library cards, and Chris will end up getting fined for not returning the cats. It’s everyone’s dream come true.