Len Shipman: What’s your public library worth to you?
This week, schools, campuses and communities across the country celebrate National Library Week, a time to remind the public about the contribution libraries, librarians and library workers make to their communities every day. Summit County Libraries will be celebrating with a reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a presentation on the health benefits of chocolate, and a family-friendly hip-hop performance! Visit the library website for more information on these events.
Some would say our libraries are obsolete, a quaint vestige of our past. But that’s simply untrue. The facts speak for themselves: Library use is up nationwide. In today’s economy, libraries offer free resources to help people find jobs and learn new skills. Here in Summit County, 75 percent of residents are library users. The number of materials checked out at our three local libraries was up 12 percent in 2008. Plus, the total number of visits (246,762) nearly reached the quarter million mark.
It’s hard to quantify the value of our libraries, but if we must put a price tag on it, here’s one way to calculate the cost: Let’s say you borrow just two books per month from the library. We’ll estimate the cost of each book at $15. Based on typical taxpayer contributions, that means for every $1 in taxes you spend on the library, you receive $9.86 of value in return. That’s a 10-to-1 ratio!
Rather than threatening our libraries, the age of technology has only complemented our services and expanded our reach. That’s why our motto is “It’s Not Just About Books Anymore!” Of course we have books, but Summit County Libraries also have a wide range of products and services available at the library itself or accessible from your own computer. The library’s downloadable audio service allows library patrons to download best-selling audio books, videos, and music 24/7 to their PC at home, in the office or from anywhere in the world. All three library locations have downloadable audio stations in the libraries where patrons can download audio books, videos or music directly to the MP3 players and take them home using the library’s fast Internet service instead of their dial-up connections at home.
The libraries continue to offer the ever-popular and growing Wi-Fi Internet service, which began last April, allowing patrons to bring in their own laptops and receive free Internet access. All three locations also continue to offer free Internet access on library-provided computers.
Other services available include an increasing and ever changing collection of fiction and nonfiction books; books on tape and CD; videos, DVDs and CD-ROMs; historical newspapers online; large print books; over 200 newspapers and magazines; paperback exchange; inter-library loan service; on-line databases; special children’s programs including our popular summer reading program; and free home-delivery service.
Libraries and librarians are more relevant than ever, providing a 24/7 information delivery service. Our multi-faceted, multicultural, multilingual resources are providing a bridge to their best conceivable future for millions nationwide. And, of course, admission is free.
It’s democracy in action. There’s nothing obsolete about that.
For more information on the Summit County Library, visit http://www.co.summit.co.us/library.
Len Shipman is president of the Summit County Library Board and Library Foundation
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