Be informed, be connected
By MOLLY RODGERS
Economics, environment, farming, preservation, culture, safety, valuesif you look back over months of visioning articles, there seem to be two common threads regardless of the particular community focus: being informed and being connected. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information. (quoted from a UNESCO paper)
Local public libraries are the gateway to knowledge and information, even in this Internet age. Most libraries have transformed themselves, breaking old stereotypes and responding to needs in our communities and opportunities in technology. Because libraries are neutral and non-commercial, they are also one of the last truly open public places to connect people and ideas. There is no admission or membership fee. There are no entrance requirements, no security screening, no qualifications based on age, income, disability, or any other characteristic. All you need is interest and curiosity.
If you are active in a community nonprofit, does your local library have information about your mission and activities? Are there books and videos you can recommend or donate to libraries for people who are interested in planning and visioning, local farming, the environment and other topics? You can help us improve our collections so that libraries can be good neighbors. And we invite everyone to discover or re-discover what libraries are today:
• A great place for lifelong learning and discovery. Everyone knows change is constant, and the rate of change keeps increasing. But we are not alone or unique in facing challenges. Libraries provide resources and perspectives so we can learn from others. Libraries also provide free programs on topics of interest from careers and hobbies to current events and local politics.
• A community connector. Newcomers to the area use libraries to connect to information about local services, organizations and events. Nonprofit organizations and government departments, the hospital, the Aging office, the child care coalition, the Arts Alliance, the Historical Society and others partner with libraries to provide information, reach out to underserved populations and create new synergies.
• A great place to save money. Borrow an item, read it, listen to it, watch it, learn from it and return it without spending a dime. Library cards, books, books on tape or disk, DVDs, computers, Internet access and programs are all free. Libraries are smart economic modelsour resources become the common wealth.
• A great place to save the environment. Use the library to reduce your carbon footprint. For each book you borrow from the library instead of buying, you save paper. For each DVD or book on disk or music CD borrowed, you save plastic from manufacturing and landfills. And now with your library card, you can even download audio books and videos to your computer.
• A great place to save time and frustration. When you search the Internet, how much time do you then spend sorting through whats biased, unreliable, trying to make a profit out of your pocket, too advanced, too simple? Libraries have staff trained to find information that is trustworthy and right for you.
• A great place for growing successful kids. Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy. But the foundations for literacy begin in infancy; by the time children start kindergarten, many local kids are already behind in language development and school readiness. Libraries help new parents give their babies a healthy start through infant and preschool programs, parenting information, board books, picture books and story books. Once kids enter school, libraries provide programs that encourage childrens imagination and self-discovery in addition to homework help and resources. If schools are where you learn to read, libraries are where you read to learnabout yourself, about others, about anything you want.
My final vision is that local public libraries be adequately supported by state and county funding, that literacy and lifelong learning be more of a priority at budget time. Its a long-range vision, but if we can invest more in early learning and lifelong learning, its just possible that we could spend less on crisis management later. If you are a library donor, thank you for making our services possible. You are already far above average. If you arent a donor yet, know that your investment would bring a huge return to the community.
(Molly Rodgers is the administrator of the Wayne Library Authority, which includes all the local community libraries in Wayne County.)