The 13th National Conference of the Public Library Association (PLA) came to a close this week. Nearly 8,000 library staff, supporters, exhibitors, authors and guests gathered at the Oregon Convention Center for various workshops and discussions that focused on such key issues as advocacy, technology, literacy and serving adults and youth.
The conference drew extensive media coverage. The Oregon Local News, on March 22, Gresham library turns to technology as the information age forces change — but it’s still about books.
Especially noteworthy was an op ed piece published in The Oregonian.
We cannot afford to close the book on libraries
March 22, 2010, 11:44PM
By Sari Feldman and Vailey Oehlke
Rules are often proven by their exceptions.
Multnomah County libraries are truly exceptional, in terms of their use, as well as the support they receive from the community. Just this year Multnomah County Library earned the National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Service.
Over the past year library use in Multnomah County has increased by more than 5.5 percent with library users checking out or renewing 29.9 items per capita. And, in response to our changing world, Multnomah County Library recognizes the importance of its Web presence. As many people now visit the library’s Web page as walk through its doors.
Elsewhere in the nation, one can see a similar upward curve in public library use. A new survey by the American Library Association found that 76 percent of all libraries reported increased use of public Internet computers, while nearly half of all public libraries reported increased use of their electronic resources, including jobs databases, online test preparation services, e-books and investment tools. Wireless use and enrollment in patron technology training classes also are up over the past year.
But despite this consistent increase in usage and dependence on the public library, most of the nation has seen a decrease in funding for even the most basic library services.
The timing for these cuts could not be worse. Libraries across the country have stood firmly on the front lines during the recent recession. They have provided an anchor of stability for millions of Americans tightening their financial belts and seeking employment and continuing education. Americans are turning to their local public library for a range of resources.
Multnomah County Library recognizes the critical role it plays in the success of its community. Library users are discovering how the library can help them find new skills or a new job. The library is helping those in transition because of the economy or a recent move or life change to move forward, with services in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian.
America’s public libraries are fiscally responsible and wise investments. With more than 16,000 public library buildings in most communities across the country, public libraries are uniquely positioned to provide the full range of educational, informational and entertainment resources American families need as they trim expenses and seek employment.
As the nation struggles to emerge from the recent economic crisis, we cannot afford to close the book on libraries.
Sari Feldman, is president of the, Public Library Association and director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Parma, Ohio. Vailey Oehlke is director of libraries for Multnomah County Feldman and Oehlke will join thousands of library supporters in Portland from March 23 to 27 for the 13th Public Library Association National Conference.