In hard times, libraries are more important than ever. Human beings need what books give them better than any other medium. Since ancient nights around prehistoric campfires, we have needed myth. And heroes. And moral tales. And information about the world beyond the nearest mountains or oceans.
Today, with books and movies more expensive than ever, and television entertainment in free fall to the lowest level of stupidity, free circulating books are an absolute necessity. They are quite simply another kind of food. We imagine, and then we live.
For those without money, the road to the treasure house of the imagination begins at the public library, New York Daily News columnist Pete Hamill said.
As I was searching for the appropriate opening for this article, I realized it had already been penned, and much more eloquently than I could have done. These hard times are driving the people into the public library, times in which the library itself is faced with its own tough budget choices. The recently unemployed pour over the how to books on developing the winning resume, while waiting a turn at the public computer to type it. Folks facing bankruptcy or eviction are looking to the library’s limited legal collection and for contact info for free or reduced rate legal help. More laptop users are appearing in order to utilize the high-speed wireless internet connections. The reading room is often occupied by locals taking advantage of the vast selection of magazine and newspapers to which the library subscribes. DVD and VHS checkouts are increasing as families are opting to disconnect their cable or satellite connections.
Recent surveys have indicated that county residents overwhelmingly appreciate the high level of customer service they receive at their local Whatcom Library System branch. There was a time when popular opinion held that with the internet age, the need for the reference librarian would diminish. Quite the opposite has proven true. The need for the librarian to wade through the oceans of information to provide relevant information from authoritative sources has never been more valued.
The Blaine Library will see no staff hour increases in 2009, repeating what’s been the experience of the last three years - these same years that have witnessed a 25 percent growth in items checked out and thousands of new patrons. Self check-out has been introduced to provide an option to those who would desire it, which also allows staff to continue to offer the quality reference and readers’ advisory help that the community has come to expect, enjoy, and even require during these challenging times.
As people are looking for no or low cost entertainment options, they’re finding them at their local libraries. At the Blaine Library, a second Toddler Time has been added, so families may choose either Tuesday or Thursday to enjoy this popular 10:30 a.m. program.
One evening and two daytime book discussion groups are meeting at the library and currently open to new members. Check with the library for times and titles. Teens are enjoying monthly game nights with the recently purchased Wii, graciously donated by the Friends of the Library with pizza provided by Little Caesars.
Look for other Wii nights at the library for children, families and seniors coming up in 2009! More movie events are being planned, thanks to a grant received by the Whatcom County Library Foundation and the purchase of movie licensing rights by the Friends of the Library.
Finally, be sure to get your copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning novel and 2009 selection for the one book, one community program, “Whatcom READS!”
Author visits and discussion groups will be offered throughout the county to encourage participation in this unique community building opportunity.
On Saturday, November 22, the Blaine Library will celebrate 20 years in its current building! The Friends of the Library will be hosting an open house with refreshments from 1 – 4 p.m. At 2 p.m., Father Jay Rozendaal of Christ Episcopal Church will dedicate four new benches in the library’s entrance, given in memory of Clare Larson, Blaine Librarian during the 1940s. Please join us!