How many of you use the library? Raise your hands. I see several hands waving...Let's see...what services do you enjoy there? Computers? Tax forms? Reference? What items to you generally check out? Books? What kind? Bestsellers? Biographies? Non-fiction? Fiction? How-to's?
I'm trying to make a point, here: libraries are one of the most helpful services we have in this country. The services are seemingly FREE. Of course, that's not true, but it APPEARS that way. Tax dollars support libraries, grants of one kind or another help, bequests and estate gifts fund portions of the library's budget, but the public is entitled to explore a vast amount of entertainment and information in a quiet, inviting atmostphere and, in my library, seven days a week with little to no direct cost to patrons.
If you hadn't thought of what libraries actually do for us, here's a short list taken from a website entitled I Love Libraries:
1. Try it before you buy it. Money is tight. Don't buy a CD, DVD, or book without "test-driving" it first. Come to the library and borrow it to see if it's a purchase that is right for you. If we don't have it, we'll try our hardest to get it for you. (MM and I did the opposite with Michael Moore's DVD, Capitalism: A Love Story. We bought the DVD, we'll watch it, and then we'll give it to the library for their collection.)
2. Two words: FREE INTERNET
3. Bolster your business. We have access to databases and research tools that will help you reach new and different markets, even during tough times.
4. Get the skills you need. Libraries offer classes in a variety of topics. Pick up your library newsletter or visit their website. You'll quickly find you can learn new things ranging from basic computer skills to knitting to how to start a business.
5. Find entertainment. Libraries offer classes, events and activities for children and adults, almost always at no cost. A fun night out doesn't need to be an expensive night out.
6. Hold meetings that get results. Libraries often offer low-cost or no-cost meeting spaces. Whether you're a school group trying to develop a fundraiser or a CEO trying to launch a business, stop in to see if you can hold your meeting at the library.
7. Be a well-informed investor. The library has up-to-date stock market information that will help you get through tough times. Make smarter investment decisions with the most current financial information.
8. Find a new job, or a different job. Use computers, books, newspapers and more to find employment and build resumes and cover letters.
9. Regain a sense of community. Feeling a bit disconnected during tough times? Libraries are places where communities come together. Stop in and take a moment to take in the action...you'll find it abuzz with information, people and possibilities.
Unfortunately, economic tough times are putting the squeeze on libraries, just at the time when the number of people needing or wanting to patronize their services is rising steeply. In many cities across the country libraries are having to cut services, even close their doors altogether, just at a time when their services are needed the most.
MM and I depend upon our library for good books, bestsellers, CD's, DVD's...in a word, our entertainment out here JOTOLR. Regardless of the time of day, there are lots of people browsing, using the FREE Internet, just sitting and enjoying the ambience of what could be someone's large living room. For the last three nights, we've been watching videos, compliments of the library. All of you who regularly go to the movies might scoff that these are "old movies." But a good story never wanes. So, we have watched Steven Spielberg's "Always," and "La Amistad," and the hilarious, but more timely than ever film, "Dave."
If you're looking to volunteer for a good cause check with your local librarian. If you have good quality CD's and DVD's you no longer watch, or best-sellers you've bought, read and won't read again, consider giving them to the library. (If they don't put them on the shelf, they'll use them in their annual or semi-annual book sales. Support their book sales and offer to help. Offer to work with children's story hour. There are many ways you can help bridge the gaps in funding.