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Friends of the Libraries: Take Getty leader's word on arts' importance

June 27, 2013|By Mary Ellen Goddard

In an article headlined "Why arts and humanities matter" (Los Angeles Times, June 20) James Cuno, chief executive and president of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, states that without citizens who can read, write and analyze, society falters and competitiveness suffers. He says that as students try to get into fields that offer higher pay — science, technology, engineering and math — they often neglect taking arts and humanities classes.

He declares that institutions have responded by cutting budgets in those classes and argues that we should be investing more funds, not less, into these subjects. "Studying the humanities strengthens the ability to communicate and work with others... Without artists, sociologists, English majors and political theorists — along with engineers and scientists — to envision what the future looks like, that exciting potential will never be realized." Cuno says that most employers want schools to place more emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving as well as written and oral communication.

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Public libraries are a perfect place to strengthen these skills, beginning with toddler storytime, summer reading programs, book discussion groups, tutoring, literacy studies, study groups and the varied subject matter, in fiction and nonfiction, to be found on the shelves and online.

So how do we make sure that our libraries can support strengthening these skills? For one thing, we make them large enough to do the job. And of course, you know that I am on my soapbox again, trying to encourage all of you to push for library expansion in Costa Mesa. To get you thinking about it, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation has asked Orange Coast College architecture students to construct drawings for proposed library expansion projects. They should soon be on the foundation's website at http://www.costamesalibraryfoundation.com.

While you are waiting to look at these library expansions, think about what you want in your library. Some of these things will be discussed at the American Library Assn. in Chicago. Topics I am aware of are: collaborative spaces, children/teen spaces, early literacy and reading engagement, marketing your library, technology and social media. Other topics are the increasing demand for computers, electric power access for mobile devices, children's and teens' programming and the use of the library as a "third space" for patrons.

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