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Libraries: a community asset

Libraries: A Community Asset

With over 122,000 libraries of varying types in the United States, libraries are a prominent aspect of our society. Over the last several years, many have questioned the future of libraries. Luckily, libraries are organisms that are thriving in our information-rich environment. Public libraries serve many essential functions within the community, and contribute to the local economy, as well. We are a nation of curious citizens, however, and many questions still surround the public library institution.

Public libraries are funded by tax dollars and any facility which is paid for by the community raises the question, «What purpose does this facility/activity/organization serve?» In the case of the public library this question can be easily answered

The library defends intellectual freedom. It levels the societal playing field by offering resources of all varieties to all individuals regardless of educational or economic status. Providing equal education also supports democracy by offering access to information that allows citizens to make informed decisions regarding their government. This intellectual environment nourishes creativity and establishes the public library as a place for life-long learning.

A public library also serves to facilitate community gathering. With cardholders that can number in the thousands, a public has something to offer everyone. Libraries offer programs that bring together individuals who may not have met otherwise. Libraries offer use of meeting rooms, book discussion groups, art galleries and programs tailored to patrons of all ages.

Libraries offer educational resources to those who may not otherwise have access to them. Computers and internet access are one of many services offered to patrons for purposes ranging from learning new information to searching for employment. In many communities public libraries are the only available source of free internet access. Public libraries also provide members with literacy and English as a Second Language courses free of cost.

The library is a place but is it also a service? Should its mission to be to serve the underprivileged, support schools, serve as a resource for businesses and an information hub or all of these things? Libraries are judged by their overall relevancy to people in their constituency. There is a need to continually assess the relevancy of the features and functions provided to the community. People measure relevance in relation to their experiences. How do libraries create informational experiences that are entertaining, pertinent and also meaningful to a patron’s life? People now want to take ownership of the information they acquire. They want to actively participate in the learning experience. Gone are the days when people take information given to them at face value.

The people seeking information are as diverse as the facts they seek. Library patrons include individuals of all ages, races, and backgrounds. The highest usage of libraries is generated by those of higher income and education levels, but libraries are working to attract all members of society. The market value of library services serves as an incentive for low-income individuals to utilize library services.

All things considered, libraries are an essential and vital part of any community.

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