Some people have not read a book in years, yet they revere the principles on which public libraries are built. This kind of support has enabled the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library to stay strong during difficult times.
A survey conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services concluded that “public libraries in America continue as strong anchors for their communities.” Between 2000 and 2010, it said, visits to American libraries increased by nearly one-third. Amid decreasing levels of state and federal funding for libraries, it added, “local support provides a greater portion of funding than ever before.”
All these things are true of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Local sources now account for 56 percent of our funding. Last year, our 19 locations attracted nearly 3 million visits.
Small children come to the library with a caring adult to attend a story hour. Teens come to the library to create information, not just consume it. Adults seek job opportunities through Internet use, financial literacy programs, and help with creating small businesses.
The library brings people together to learn, regardless of age, race, economics, or citizenship — the essence of democracy. With private-sector support from the Library Legacy Foundation and the Friends of the Library, we are addressing the challenges and questions that lie ahead.
Among these challenges is creating and fostering new learning pathways for the citizens of Lucas County. Our new early-literacy Ready to Read van is reaching out to neighborhoods. Children’s librarians train parents and teachers in reading strategies. We make technology and books available to our users at home, at child-care facilities, in hospitals, and at other locations.
The library continues to transform and grow. We offer upgraded and improved spaces for meeting and learning: conference rooms, creative areas, telecommunications and digital facilities with access to high-speed computers and printers. Our focus is on jobs, careers, and education.
Our system continues to take the pulse of the community, considering how Lucas County residents wish to learn, grow, and create. We read the surveys that show that smart phone adoption among America’s students has increased substantially, and that access to the Internet on mobile devices is pervasive.
According to a 2013 survey, nearly one in four teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users, who primarily go online via a mobile phone rather than a desktop or laptop computer. More than three-fourths of teens have cell phones, and about half own smart phones.
In response, the library offers books, magazines, movies, and music online and free. We welcome the digital era.
There is a growing demand for public libraries and librarians to expand how we operate and fulfill our mission. Our relevance is proven. Our transparent system preserves culture and broadens knowledge in a digital era.
On ballots that have included a Toledo-Lucas County Public Library initiative, we have consistently gotten the highest number of votes of any issue or political candidate. Visit us — in person or online — and discover again why your public library matters.
Clyde Scoles is director and fiscal officer of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.