Thursday, February 21, 2008

Libraries and the book, 'green' resources for all

As a young Dad (25+ years ago) one of the most wonderful times each week was Saturday morning when I'd take my daughters to the local library to choose some books. We'd come back with 15-20 wonderful picture books that were read and re-read all week until our next visit. Today my grandchildren experience the same joy with their parents who are following the same pattern that they experienced as children. The local library is a wonderful resource.

An academic colleague of mine, Dr Allen Berger from Miami University of Ohio (USA), has recently written an interesting opinion piece in a US newspaper on the value of libraries and books. For many years Allen has taught and written about literacy. One of his current involvements is serving on the Board of Trustees of Live Oak Public Libraries in Savannah Georgia. In this article he makes a simple (but important) point. In an age where we are concerned about being wise with the world's resources, books and libraries reduce waste and increase shared use of resources with other wonderful benefits for children and adults. Here is an extract from the complete article.

Among our most precious resources are our books. It’s fascinating to observe how books already are recycled in libraries. Many books are read, returned, borrowed (and recycled) more than a hundred times.

“Right now 135 people are on a waiting list for James Patterson’s new novel, 7th Heaven,” said Diane Bronson, collection development coordinator for Live Oak Public Libraries. “Twenty-seven copies have been ordered,” she added.

Some award-winning children’s books are read so many times that they literally fall apart and have to be replaced. These include Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children Mystery series, and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, according to Judy Strong, youth services coordinator.

The public can buy used paperbacks for fifty cents and hardcover books for a dollar in many libraries regularly. Videos are available for a dollar and audios sell for a dollar on up.

People can also bid for used (or pre-owned, to use popular advertising jargon) books, videos, and audios at silent and live auctions. DVD’s are now so popular that three-fourths of the thousands owned by libraries are in continual circulation.

Years ago people were worried that movies would supplant books. But librarians know that when there’s a popular movie they had better have many copies of the book on which the movie is based. People see a movie, like Seabiscuit or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and then go to a nearby library to borrow the books.

Sometimes it’s the other way around: people see a movie and want to read or hear the book.

To enable the public to reach the Internet there are 300 computers available in the nineteen libraries of the Live Oak Public Libraries in Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. Computer use is soaring with a total of 645,798 computer sessions during the most recent fiscal year (July 2006 to June 2007). That’s a jump of nearly 61,000 computer sessions over the preceding fiscal year.

In most libraries you’ll also find a variety of newspapers and magazines enjoyed by people daily.

I hope you get Allen's point. The library and the books within them are a precious community resource which we need to protect. Today, the library is an even richer resource than it once was with DVDs, toys, access to computers, databases and so on. I could go on to talk about equity issues; for example, the service that libraries provide to families that can't buy books, the importance of 'talking' books for the blind and so on. Maybe that's another post!

Let's use and defend libraries.

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