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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

A library system that excels

IF ALL institutions in this area enjoyed the same national reputation as the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library system, Silicon Valley would have to worry about competing with Toledo. Once again the system has received outstanding national recognition. It's ranked eighth in the nation in cities of similar size by Hennen's American Public Library Ratings.

In the library world, this is the Academy Award, a highly prestigious honor, and our local libraries are deservedly proud. The rating is based largely on financial information from 2004, including expenditures per capita and collection turnover. Our libraries were up against 92 other systems in the same broad population range: between 250,000 and 500,000 residents.

Library users should feel honored, too. Last year, about 6.3 million library materials were circulated, from books to periodicals and movies to music. About 2.9 million people visited the main or branch libraries in 2005. The library does all this on a budget of $60.74 for each Lucas County resident.

Without question, public support has been a big part of the success. The system boasts a beautiful modern edifice downtown, and several branch libraries have either been newly constructed or renovated. The Locke Branch in East Toledo will be the newest addition when it is finished next spring.

These improvements have been possible because voters supported a 10-year bond issue in 1995 that generated $38.6 million. Three years ago, voters approved a four-year operating levy that has generated $7.8 million annually. It expires next December.

Toledo-Lucas County Public Library is not the only jewel among Ohio's systems. Stark County District Library was number six on Hennen's top 10 list. The bottom line is that our public library network ranks among the best in the nation and remains a source of local pride.

You could look it up. Or just ask a librarian.

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