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GUEST COLUMN: Digital age finds public libraries more essential than ever before

By: Sydne Dean
January 26, 2014 Updated: January 26, 2014 at 8:55 am
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Is the public library still vital? Of course, it is.

The Pikes Peak Library District checked out 8,626,745 items in 2013 alone - for reading, listening, and viewing, while 3,606,753 patrons visited the library's facilities and mobile units in 2013.

Do we need the library if we have Internet and a device to download books, CDs, movies, etc.? You tell me: libraries still check out items to people who do want and need them - and always will. "After putting in my resume with library staff, I got the job!" one patron told me, recently.

There are library programs for babies and toddlers to help parents develop their children's literacy skills. Over 26,000 children and teens take part in "Summer Reading" activities and programs. Here's something from another patron: "I've been staying in Fountain while my husband is deployed, bringing my two-year old to toddler time." One woman told me, "Library visits have become an important part of our home-school program." The library offers resources and programs designed specifically for teens at a critical time in their lives, including crafts, games and technologically savvy programs to name just a few. One of the mobile libraries visits senior residences; the senior van takes programs and materials into assisted living residences.

"We lost our house in the Waldo fire and library computers are helping us get emails about new houses, builders, and insurance status," wrote yet another patron. The library assists writers with information on publishing and self-publishing, and offers a program that brings authors, agents, and publishers together to discuss the writing craft itself. The library hosts book clubs, community discussions, writers and artists. Recommended databases and licensed databases assist patrons in paying taxes, automotive repair, interacting with government agencies, consumer research, hands-on homework help, hobbies and much more. Patrons receive assistance in grant writing and applications at the El Pomar Nonprofit Research Center.

For all of these people, and more, the public library is not simply vital, but invaluable. There is so much more to public libraries in the 21st century. Check it out for yourself!

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Sydne L. Dean is associate director of public services at Pikes Peak Library District. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she has been a librarian for 38 years.

Lamar Cole's response:

The taxpayers of Colorado Springs did a good thing when they created the Pikes Peak Library District years ago. We need to be thankful for that, as well as for the many local volunteers who spend their free time serving others through library programs. Denver, by contrast, had to cut its weekly branch hours down to an average of 36 during one of its budget crises a couple of years ago. Denver has since increased its hours, but you can bet that the next budget crisis there will mean more library cuts. Big cities too often have regressive library policies.

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