This is National Library Week, a wonderful tribute to those oases of knowledge that nourish us all. But in fact, we should celebrate public libraries every day, because they are a resource that has helped make our country strong. Without the public libraries found in nearly every community in the U.S., access to information and skill development and literature and poetry and magazines and films would have been difficult, or in some cases, impossible. Libraries are a harvest waiting for the mind to reap.
Should the voters honor me with their endorsement as the next Third District member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, I have pledged to maintain and enhance the important role libraries play in our daily lives. Yes, we live in the internet age with much information available online. But libraries can offer so much that the internet cannot—the ability to thumb through a reference book and find something unexpected, and delightful, and interesting; a knowledgeable librarian to guide students in their search for information needed for school reports; the opportunity to peruse a rack full of magazines and find a new interest; the ability to grab a movie for the weekend, at no cost, or to take home a DVD and listen to a favorite artist or orchestra.
We are fortunate in San Diego County to have 33 branch libraries that in the previous fiscal year circulated 10.7 million books and recorded 5.7 million visits. Jose Aponte, Director of our San Diego County Library System, is a visionary leader who has helped propel our libraries to their position of excellence, and he is strongly supported by an outstanding staff and group of local Friends organizations.
Our community libraries offer story hours for children, venues for lectures and artistic performances, places where book groups can meet—so many different types of activities. Some even offer yoga classes for seniors. Should you visit your local community library, you will see it humming with activities.
Of course, our libraries do not ignore the internet; instead, they have embraced it as an adjunct to the learning resources they contain. All of our county libraries are equipped with computers and also offer free Wi-Fi access. They allow patrons to use their Kindles, Nooks and iPads to download e-books, and they even hold classes in how to do this. Library customers can browse the San Diego Library Catalog via the internet, reserve items and view their accounts. Our librarians have learned to be tech-savvy.
And speaking of librarians, I have had the chance to meet many of our librarians in my travel throughout the Third District who passionately serve their diverse patrons on a daily basis. We are blessed to have such wonderful librarians! We are also blessed to have Friends of Library organizations that provide scarce resources and support. I first began my public service when I was active in the Friends of the Solana Beach Library and elected to their Board of Directors.
In the tough economic times that our country—and our county—experienced over the past few years, libraries have taken on an even more important role, logging increases in computer use and in use of job-search references. There have been numerous media reports of more reliance on libraries in lieu of purchasing books or computers. Libraries can help us in good times and, especially, in bad ones.
Our county libraries also offer the LEARN (Libraries Empower All to Read Now) program that provides tutoring in basic reading, writing and math skills. LEARN also offers tutoring in standardized tests (such as the GED), and it provides services for ESL (English as a Second Language) students.
Do you remember that phrase we used to hear on the radio in public service announcements — “It’s the latest, it’s the greatest, it’s the library?” Well, that phrase is even more applicable today.
As a San Diego County Supervisor, I will do my best to make sure that phrase continues to be relevant throughout our county library system. Why don’t you celebrate National Library Week by stopping by your local community library to enjoy the latest best seller or engage in a stimulating conversation?