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Why the public library matters

In this technologically advanced age when you can order books instantly and have them appear on your e-reader in nanoseconds, you may ask yourself where does the public library fit into the modern reader’s life. Besides the obvious lending books, CDs and DVDs, the public library is an amazing resource for education and community. While budget cuts seem constantly to threaten its existence, the public library is an often-overlooked treasure to local communities. Here are a few reasons why the library matters.

The New York Public Library decked out for an evening event.
Photo by Andrew H. Walker

The public library offers voracious readers, some might say obsessive readers, the opportunity to read as many books as they want for the super low price of free. Not only is this great for the budget conscious among us, it also allows readers the freedom to experiment without feeling any buyer’s remorse. With book prices at the mercy of publishers and certain retailers who shall remain nameless, having a library full of free books is a blessing for bibliophiles. For technophiles, e-book lending is also featured at many public libraries today. You may have to wait a bit for the latest bestsellers, but in the meantime you can add more books to your already vast reading list.

Requesting books not available at your local branch is easier than ever. Log into your account on your local library’s website. Search for the book you would like to request, click on request and then choose the branch where you’d like to pick up your book. Some libraries even offer book delivery right to your door for those unable to make it to their local branch. Check your local library for details as this service may not be available in your area.

Educational programs for children from toddlers to teenagers help foster a lifelong love of books and reading. These free programs are a wonderful way to introduce toddlers to the library and to other toddlers, starting their socialization as they get ready for pre-K. Puppet shows, short plays and sing-alongs entertain as well as educate young children. Summer reading lists are also available for all age groups with new and classic books to enjoy.

Educational programs for adults offer continuing learning experiences through classes and book clubs. Adult literacy programs are available in most areas as well as fun workshops, art programs, and entertaining performances by local artists. Lectures, readings and art exhibitions are also on schedule at the public library and often for free. Keeping active and learning new things is vital to staying healthy at any age. Check your local library’s website for more information.

While some of us may miss flipping through the old card catalog, computers have made the library more accessible and perhaps more relevant. Anyone can sign up and use the computers. Free wifi is also available. A librarian no longer stamps the due date in the back of the book. An automated check-in and checkout system is now in place at the Queens Public Library. The spirit of the library as a force for good still thrives, giving everyone with a library card a place to read and learn and grow.

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