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Friends of the Libraries: In Internet age, libraries more necessary than ever

August 08, 2013|By Mary Ellen Goddard

"Libraries are more relevant than ever." This statement is the title of an essay by Luis Herrera, director of the San Francisco Public Library, for the New York Times' "Room for Debate" series.

Herrera's and other essays on the future of libraries were published in December to answer the question, "Do we still need libraries?" Despite many people feeling that we can get everything we need on the Internet, we need libraries more because of the Internet, not less.

This point was stressed by Susan Crawford, another of the writers for this series. She stated that for many minorities, the library may be the only access to the Internet they have for applying for jobs, doing homework, getting information about healthcare and more. She said that almost a third of Americans don't subscribe to Internet access at home, quite often because they can't afford it.

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Even in our digital age, with all that is available, about seven in 10 library patrons who visited a library over a 12-month period intended to borrow print books or browse the shelves, according to a 2013 Pew Research study. It found that the next biggest categories of library use were researching topics of interest (54%), getting help from a librarian (50%) and using a research database (46%).

Many used the library as an extension of their living room, sitting and reading or studying. It is not just the homeless who do this — many people who live alone enjoy having other people around while they read. Conversely, some who have large families like to come to the library to get more privacy while studying.

I checked out several libraries' list of services. Santa Ana, for instance, has a page on the city library's website that describes the services to be found in its two library branches. Check out what is available at your library.

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At the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library

The grand opening of the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library on July 31 was well attended. The new roof beams and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms were a big hit with visitors.

It was also the first day of that library's summer reading program. And the U.S. passport service was up and running at the library as well.

The next children's program is "Flights of Fantasy Story Theater" at 11 a.m. Monday. The program has a unique style of vaudeville storytelling that celebrates the humor and wisdom of multicultural literature, using mime, masks, props and costumes.

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