One question that I’m often asked lately, is, “Are libraries still essential?” Another way people ask the same question is, “Are libraries still relevant?” or even, “Why do we still need libraries? Can’t I find all the information I need on the Internet?” During the past few years, library administrators have worked to place a value on libraries in an effort to help the public (taxpayers) understand what their money buys. Each year, Melissa Scott, our Assistant Director, does just that when we present our Annual Report to the County Council. There are many things that a library’s staff and materials bring to the public that are much more difficult to calculate.
We live in tough times. When we consider what services a community needs, it is easy to cut the programs and agencies that provide “luxuries”. We know that we need police and fire departments, water and other utilities. We know that our citizens need food and clothing. Those are all relatively easy decisions.
But, a person is nurtured by more than just food, clothing and a warm, safe place to live. We need to nurture our heart, mind, and soul as well. That is what culture, especially great (and not-so-great) literature does. When we feed the mind, we allow a person to grow, to have a better life.
Fayette County Public Library offers many invaluable materials and services. Here are just a few:
1) Early Literacy Programs. Early literacy programs are proven to have a positive impact on learning. The library provides storytimes, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, Reading Buddies at schools, and more.
2) Computer Training and Access. FCPL offers a computer lab where the public can have free access to our computer. We also offer use of laptops and free wireless service within the library.
3) Information Access. Our library offers free access to databases that otherwise would be very expensive. Long before it became so popular to be “green”, libraries (and librarians) knew how economically practical it was to share the few copies they owned in their collections, rather than each person having to purchase all of the resources they would need or want in a lifetime.
4) Economically Efficient Collections of Materials. Not only do libraries share copies with their registered borrowers, but public librarians have become experts at making tax dollars stretch even further. Many libraries join together to form consortia (such as the Overdrive Consortium that FCPL has joined). Our library saves more money joining with others to form consortia for purchasing supplies which reduces the burden to our taxpayers.
5) Intellectual Freedom Fighters. Let’s face it. Libraries have been major players in the defense of our intellectual freedom for many years — even before most of us knew exactly what that meant. Who hasn’t had the thrill of finding at least one life-changing book on the shelve at the local library. My first such book was Fahrenheit 451. But, that was followed by so many others.
6) Inexpensive Entertainment. Our library strives to offer fun program at very little cost. In some, if not most, cases they are absolutely free. Libraries, including FCPL, have managed to make summer reading fun for so many years, and all that time many of the kids participating in this perennial program didn’t even know they were being duped into maintaining valuable library skills over the summer.
7) At Your Door Services. Another perennial favorite of our library users has been the beloved bookmobile. Books are actually brought to your neighborhood. Libraries have been doing it for years. And, that was quickly followed by homebound service. Now, you can access books and information from your PC, your laptop, your android phone, and other devices. Definitely 24/7 service.
8) Social Services. Many people seem to forget that the library is a great social service agency. Librarians are happy to show newcomers, who don’t own a PC or laptop, how to search for the Internet or in traditional print materials. All of this helps the community by raising the educational level of those that take advantage of the free, lifelong education offered at the local library.
9) Increased Property Value. Study after study has shown that the presence of a good library in a community attracts people to that community. I am happy (and proud) to say that our library is a great one.
10) Homework Help. If your child is struggling with a homework assignment, consider bringing him or her to the library. We can work with you to find the answer.
11) Keepers of Civilization. Libraries in some form have been around for about 5,000 years. If libraries weren’t valuable and essential institutions, chances are they would have become extinct long, long ago. And, all of that information is mostly free for the asking. I don’t know about you, but I still think the works of great thinkers should be shared freely. No other institution does that as well as American libraries. So, when you think about the value of libraries, and if they are still relevant, just remember that some information is invaluable.