What does your public library mean to you? Have you ever really sat and thought about this? I have to admit that, until recently, I never thought about it. When I lost my administrative assistant job last September, I was lucky enough to be offered a part-time position as a library technician. Besides being a life saver for my family finances, it opened up a whole new world to me. Not only do I love the job, I have learned what a vital part of the community a library is. Where else can you check out books, movies, and music that will transport you to another world for free? Besides books, movies, and music, the small library I work at is a bustling center of activity. In the current economic climate, library use is going up. People who do not have computers at home come in to apply for jobs, take classes and tests, book travel, keep in touch with family/friends using email or social networking sites, complete financial aide applications for college, read newspapers and magazines, download music, pay bills, play games, and many other online activities. Our main library has a very nice geneology section, which is staffed by volunteers, to help patrons learn more about their family trees. The reference desk is always busy assisting patrons with inter-library loans, helping students with research, steering patrons to websites that can help them find the information that they need, assisting those who are not computer savvy to use the public computers. With money being short these days, many people have eliminated the “extras” from their purchasing. I know I have not renewed any of my magazine subscriptions. Thanks to the library, I can still read my favorite magazines and newspapers.
Before I worked at the library, I would never have imagined the amount of work that goes into running a quality library. Besides having to keep their collections current on a limited budget, there is a lot of physical work that goes on in the background. Book drops have to be emptied multiple times during the day – no matter what the weather. Those books then have to be checked in, sorted, and put back out on the library shelves for the next patron to check out. If a book is damaged from regular use, it has to be fixed before it goes back out into circulation. When I started at the library, I was shocked at how many movies are circulated each day. Each of those movies has to be checked in, locked, sorted, and returned to the shelves. The amount of use the DVDs get often causes them to get dirty or scratched, so they need to be cleaned and repaired. Libraries with Youth Departments often have special activities for pre-school children. Staff works very hard at making these programs entertaining and educational. Libraries also offer programs for adults. Our library sytem has book clubs, computer classes, geneology classes, and other cultural activities.
With the staff cuts, the libraries are relying more and more on volunteers. The amount of work these volunteers put in is amazing. When I finally am able to retire (when I’m 89 – at the rate I’m going), I plan to volunteer at the library where I live.
So, have you thought about what your library is worth to you? If you use your library, how much is it saving you? If you don’t use your library, why not?
Go to http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/savingscalculator/ to see how much you save when you use your public library.