It is very possible that I may have been spoiled by my home library and the incredible staff there. I realize that over the years the role a library has played in communities has changed. No longer are students pouring over encyclopedia's for research material. There's no need to run to the library for the next book in a series when they can be so easily purchased on-line. With the introduction of eBay in the mid 90's we were able to buy boxes of books for pennies on the dollar and then resell them when our kids out-grew them (OK I'm really bad at the reselling part). Now with so many people turning to e-readers and buying digital versions of books I wonder how many families will never even visit a library? That thought makes me sad for them.
I loved walking into the library and being greeted by name. I knew that if I couldn't find the answer to something Mr. Marve at the research desk was always able to help and if he couldn't find the answer immediately I'd hear from him as soon as he did. Looking back I can easily see that it was in the children's department that I discovered what an important part books were in my life: reading the Beatrix Potter books in their green covers; loving the picture books even when I was "too old"; discovering Louisa May Alcott. They had such an impact on my life that my first nursery was decorated in Beatrix Potter's characters, Meg's name is from Little Women, and I believe the summer I spent working the Children's Reading Program was the stepping stone to teaching preschool.
I recently discovered that I could join Alachua County's Library for free (unlike Duval which would charge for non-residential use). I can't tell you how impressed I am with their system. Now I love my libraries here in Clay County however they could really learn some things from their neighbor. I've been to three different branches and each time I checked out the librarian noticed I was a new member then asked if I had any questions, would I like a tour and did I see their activity board? Obviously someone in management believes that customer service is of the utmost importance. More than once I saw Librarians walking around simply engaging people in the stacks.
One thing I absolutely love is their website. On it you have the option to keep a reading history of everything you've checked out. You can also create "lists". For someone like me who can barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday I love that I can go in and create lists for my favorite authors and keep track of books I read even if I didn't check them out of their library!
Without a doubt I can tell you I'd be lost without a library. At least once a week I'm there using the computers to kill time between appointments. I don't think there's a library today without a video department where you can usually find the classics right next to the latest release. For fun I thought I'd try and figure out how much I would have spent on all the books I've "heard" just this year along and let's just say it is well into 4 digits.
I understand that with today's budget cuts that libraries everywhere are getting hit hard. However I believe if communities would view their libraries as their heart and soul and use it to that effort not only can their usage increase but their importance would as well. It is fun seeing kids heading to the library with their arms full of creations for the monthly Lego club meeting. I wish that instead of cutting hours, as our county has had to do, we find clubs and organizations that can use the facility for meetings in the morning or evening so hours could be extended. Once a community realizes the true importance of their library they'd never allow services to be cut.
It is my desire that everyone who calls themselves a reader is an active member of their local library. I also hope everyone is as lucky as I was to have a great library in their neighborhood.