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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Look At State of America's Libraries Report

On Monday, the American Library Association released their report on the state of libraries in our country. The facts that were uncovered were not surprising. The trend in libraries has always been that when tough economic times hit library services are in high demand. It is not even surprising that libraries are find ways of doing more with less. Librarians have had a talent for doing this for years. It is a miracle that many of our nation's libraries have remained open and it is in large part to librarians and advocates who diligently serve the public with the best possible service. What is surprising and encouraging to note is that Americans do see the value in their libraries. This would indicate that the message is getting out about the library's role in the community. While this is terrific news, it is also a "call" to continue putting the library at the forefront of community news. In advertising, it's all about being seen.

The picture of today's American library is of an institution that passes the test of time. Americans still see the public library as the "source" for books, information and lifelong learning. There may be some misconceptions that libraries are "archaic" but it is few and far between. Avid library users know that libraries today have wifi services, internet access, electronic databases and ebooks. it may not look like your grandfather's library but it still provides the opportunity for lifelong learning as well as entertainment. For the nay sayers who believe that the library's days are long gone have not walked into a library lately. If they had, they would see the enormous change and realize what they have been missing.

It would be misleading not to mention the communities that lost their libraries due to mileages failing or city councils who refused to find a way to keep the "jewel" of the community. One closed library is one too many. Having said that, a valuable lesson can be learned from these unfortunate circumstances. When communities lose a library, it is not just losing a building that holds books. It is essentially cutting off the information flow to the public. As an example, in my own backyard, Troy Public Library will be closing it's doors soon. For good. Most of Troy's citizens do not realize that this means library services will not be available to them anywhere in Southeast Michigan. The surrounding libraries that provided reciprocal borrowing to Troy residents in the past will no longer provide that service. Leaving Troy residents with a locked up library. Sure they can visit a library, but internet access, borrowing materials and perhaps some programs will not be available to them. In situations like this, it seems that a PSA ad would do wonders to demonstrate what is lost when a library closes its doors. Its all about showing a picture that speaks louder than words.

Libraries have been known to take a couple of punches, get knocked down and get back on their feet again. Just like any other industries, there are cycles of good times and bad. What makes this year different is that unlike previous years, libraries have many more outspoken supporters. This can only lead to good things for the future. Stories of eight year olds like Paul Valleau, patron at Jersey City Public Library starting a fund raiser for the local library not only warms the heart, but gives hope that the generation that seems to be glued to their computer gadgets and cell phones will want and need libraries in their busy lives. If the message of this year's State of America's Libraries Report suggests anything, it is that now is the time for libraries to be visible, vibrant and valiantly defending the rights of all citizens to have access to libraries.
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