The Union Recorder

Editorials

January 24, 2014

Public libraries often undervalued resources

MILLEDGEVILLE — Recent turnover at the local level brings into focus an undervalued resource in the community — the public library system. As the Twin Lakes Library System board of trustees begins its search for a new executive director, we should be reminded that local libraries add value to the quality of life in communities they serve.

Take for instance the recent uproar in another community, Twiggs County, when its brand new library facility was shuttered and later reopened by the local county commission. Many residents voiced concern, as this resource was temporarily lost.

In rural communities where resources are limited for many residents, public libraries provide access to information capital, both seen and largely unseen, by many of us.

The volume of foot traffic that moves through the local libraries would likely surprise many of us. Yet, while the local library system receives state monies in addition to city and county funding, in recent years, funding has been challenged in a number of areas and the local libraries haven't been excluded from the cuts.

The funding reductions present an unfortunate irony where the same economy that resulted in job losses has impacted funding for services that many, particularly the unemployed, are utilizing at an even higher rate as they seek new employment.

Still many of us often neglect their value, and more often than not, the importance of reading and literacy in our lives.

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of American adults have not read a book in the past year. In fact, the same report indicates that the number of American non-readers has more than tripled since the 1970s.

With so many beneficial programs for local young people that libraries provide afterschool and during summers, these types of statistics set quite a poor example for them to follow with regards to reading for pleasure and library usage.

We must realize that libraries, through collaborations with other agencies, can quite often play an important role in helping to bridge socio economic gaps, improve literacy rates and enhance a sense of community.

The library is not only a place for books and magazines for many in the local community it's also a resource for computer access, tutoring and job research materials. It's a place of learning and discovery in summers for local youth when school is out and a refuge for many. Georgia public libraries also provide access to the entire collection of the statewide PINES catalogue as well as downloads of a very broad selection of electronic books for folks who cannot get to the building, brining the library to them.

The local libraries and the programs they provide can't exist in their greatest form without our support, and their efforts have too great an impact to do without.

Public libraries, and in the much broader conversation, literacy and access to it, are powerful and even transformational. Even in today's society as the written word can be accessed in numerous forms, libraries still play a vital role in that transformation. They have the potential to open doors and greatly impact lives — if we tap into these resources and utilize them to their fullest potential.

 

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