THIS is National Library Week -- a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians, to reflect on the significant impact our public library system has on our community, and to promote library use and support.
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library is an institution open to all, with free offerings and access to technology. It helps many of our neighbors in need and gives countless youths a safe haven in which to be all that they dream. It is an information anchor with databases, books, magazines, videos, newspapers, special programs, and places to meet friends.
I am thrilled that many of you in Lucas County appreciate the new policies, technologies, and spaces that are meeting the needs of all library patrons more effectively than ever before. The future will remain both a portal and a destination for our patrons, whether they get information by using a mobile device or by walking through the front door of a library branch.
Along with the 500-year-old publishing industry, current and new forms of electronic information are changing the way Lucas County patrons use their library system. Last year, the library welcomed more than 2.7 million visitors of all ages and circulated 7.2 million items.
During these challenging economic times, there is no better value than free and open access. The library enables customers to experience the world of information -- educational, cultural, and for entertainment -- in a variety of new ways.
The library includes space for reading and research, cafes, wireless computer areas, and meeting rooms. It provides access to cultural materials in galleries and screening areas.
It also is one of this area's most essential community anchors. Toledo is a city of neighborhoods: The library system's 18 branches, the main downtown library, and our outreach services -- bookmobile, cybermobile, and homebound -- all help to improve the health and vitality of our community.
Alex Haley, the author of Roots, reflected that when he visited a community or wanted to learn its history, he would always visit the local public library first. He believed the library reflected the town it served.
A library says a lot about a city. Toledo-area residents have long understood the essential role their library system plays in the educational and economic vitality of the central city and its surrounding communities. A strong and vibrant library is a sign of a strong and vibrant community, and ultimately of the value that community places on its residents.
A relevant, innovative, and democratic public library is critical to the success of our children and the vigor of community life. But for several years, the library has had to deliver services with fewer hours, staff, and materials, while public use has soared.
This year, we are getting the same amount of state aid that we got in 1996. Our property-tax revenue has declined by 9 percent during this recession. Yet we are determined to maintain excellent customer service without sacrificing our core mission.
The dedicated men and women who work for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library are celebrating National Library Week with a renewed spirit of public service. Our staff's commitment to our mission -- responding to your steadfast belief in the value of a strong public library -- offers a sign of hope for a bright future.
Clyde Scoles is director of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.