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Friends of the Libraries: Reading offers ticket to the middle class

May 30, 2013|By Mary Ellen Goddard

"Libraries are not a destination, they are the transportation. The Grand Central Station of every great city and town." This was a comment by a reader in praise of a Forbes Magazine article, "Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More" published in January 2013. And though the article was mostly about publishers and libraries needing to work together to benefit both, the point I felt this quote described was that "Without libraries to encourage new readers, foster book groups and promote communities of reading, publishers will find fewer readers for their biggest titles, and readers will have more difficulty discovering works not on the bestseller list." Publishers have a vested interest in keeping libraries strong. They should consider this when setting prices and for the agreements they forge with libraries for both paper and eBooks.

Libraries, with their collections of reading materials, both paper and electronic, and their computers available to the public, are the access to the middle class for those, both young and old, living below the federal poverty line. And studies, like a 2010 Bill and Melinda Gates report for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, show that they are taking advantage of it. They are "jumping on the train" and using the resources of the library in great numbers. Communities will benefit as more people educate themselves. More educated people means more reading people, and that means that publishers will also benefit.

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And if libraries are the transportation, librarians are the conductor on the train, the travel agent, the air traffic controller. To be literate, we need not just to be able to read, but also to know how to evaluate what we read. This is what librarians are trained to do — as well as help their customers navigate the library's resources, both print and electronic, to locate that information that will solve the problem at hand. They can also help find sources on the Internet that are only available through the library — or available at a cost to the searcher.

Being able to search for a book (in whatever form) or to research for answers are two of the many reasons why libraries matter.

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At the Costa Mesa Technology Library

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