Worthington News

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Value of library is more than books

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I've been attending a lot of community meetings lately to discuss and answer questions about the library's 2.2-mill replacement levy initiative, which will appear as Issue 53 on the Nov. 5 ballot.

In addition to questions about what the increased cost to homeowners will be ($3.12 per month for each $100,000 of assessed property value), residents are asking about the future of libraries "now that everything is available online."

While we do live in an era where a world of information is available at your fingertips, and books, as well as DVDs and music, are readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card, the truth is that libraries are more than just repositories of physical materials.

They are more than books on shelves, more than computers and Internet access, DVDs and CDs.

Libraries are about people.

Beth Sommer, a longtime friend and former library trustee, recently stated it best when she said, "You can go to the library alone and not be alone."

There is joy in being in shared space, a space that's open and accepting to everyone, where you can read silently, meet with a group or listen to music beside a roaring fireplace.

The programs presented at Worthington Libraries are attended by hundreds of people each week. Babies learn to love words and stories; teens get to hang out and have fun; and adults have the opportunity to discuss books over a glass of wine, get career advice or try a new food.

The services provided by our library system benefit people in life-changing ways.

* Our Homework Help Centers provide after-school assistance to students who might not have a computer at home or parents who can help them with their coursework.

* We deliver books and other items to people who are homebound and no longer able to visit the library in person.

* Library staff members help job seekers fill out online applications and create resumes, which can be printed at no cost.

* Our partnership with the Worthington Resource Center and Food Pantry to present library programs in their space allows us to connect to people, especially children, who might not otherwise visit the library.

* To people who can't afford to buy everything from books to music CDs, the library provides them with access to these items so they, too, can share, learn and explore alongside their more fortunate neighbors.

The real value of the library can't be found by looking at your tax bill or adding up what it saves or costs you to use it. The real value of the library is that it serves as a community center, where imagination rules, where friendship can be found, where everyone belongs and is welcome to stay.

Chuck Gibson is director/CEO of Worthington Libraries.

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