Columns

As I See It: The public library in the 21st century:

With virtual platforms for community engagement, internet search engines, media streaming platforms, and digital and audible books, one may ask, (in fact I too personally ask), “What is the current day significance of a public library?

Well, As I See It, despite living in a digital world in the 21st century, the public library is still vitally important and significant in serving the community.

I really believe we should continue to patronize the library. According to Ashley Payton in her article “Public Libraries Are Still Important”. (https://www.gpb.org/blogs/education-matters/2022/01/20/public-libraries-are-still-important), there are four reasons why public libraries are vitally important and why we should continue to patronize them.

First, she wrote: “In a society where the cost of living continues to rise, public libraries remain one of the few free spaces that provide public resources catering to the most diverse demographics: toddlers, people facing housing insecurity and unemployment, people with disabilities, students, senior citizens, educators, parents, and caregivers. In public libraries, no matter where you come from or your social-economic status, you can access countless resources and services free of charge.”

 The second, she continued: “Public libraries offer more than book rental services. Additionally, they offer vitally essential resources used for educational purposes such as 1) Technological: High-speed internet access, computers, e-books, printers, and other tech gadgets 2) Educational Entertainment: films, games, and music, 3) One-on-One and group services: literacy and homework support, story-time, and afterschool and summer learning programming, teen spaces and study rooms, job training, and other employment services.”

Third, “Public libraries are a part of the American social infrastructure promoting self-development, intellectual, social, and political empowerment… building and sustaining healthy communities. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there are more American public libraries than Starbucks (more than 17,000). “These libraries serve as community hubs that support and empower local community members’ social, political, and personal well-being. A study conducted by the pew research center found that eight-in-ten adults (78%) feel that public libraries help them find trustworthy and reliable information, and 76% say libraries help them learn new things.”

Fourth, Payton continued: “Libraries serve as refuges providing safe shelter from open to closing hours for vulnerable populations such as children and those facing housing insecurities. They also preserve and house historical records available to the public. Social services, health information, and programs are often facilitated and hosted at public libraries. These programs offer free workshops, training, and information that targets vulnerable populations such as senior citizens, language learners, those seeking employment, people with disabilities, people experiencing mental or physical health challenges.”

I concur with Payton, so we need to continue patronizing our public library…at a time of the year of modern technology and the world of social media, by promoting it and emphasizing the benefits library users can benefit from.

As such, the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) is proud to announce that two librarians have been recognized with the Movers & Shakers Award by the literary publication, Library Journal (LJ). This honor highlights 50 individuals who are advocates, community builders, change agents, innovators, educators and “ban battlers” who help move library work forward.” The recipients were announced in the May issue of Library Journal.

“Our 2024 Movers represent a range of innovative, proactive, and supportive work; they are imaginative and kind and brave in a world that needs those qualities—and the results they produce—very much,” said Library Journal Executive Editor Lisa Peet, according to Mariana Walker, Associate Communications Officer for the Santa Clara County Library District.

Library Services Manager Clare Varesio, the first recipient, served as the point person on two major health-related initiatives in 2023. One of these projects was to partner with the County Behavioral Health Services Department and bring Mental Health Access programs to our libraries, empowering the public to access mental health services. In addition, Varesio also helped to organize community workshops regarding naloxone (also called Narcan), the anti-opioid overdose drug that can save lives if given to someone experiencing an overdose. Nearly 400 community members learned how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to safely administer the life-saving nasal spray.

Varesio has been with SCCLD since 2007, first as a Children’s Librarian, next as a Supervising Librarian, and then as the Community Librarian responsible for Cupertino Library, which is one of the largest and busiest in the SCCLD system. She currently works out of the Services & Support Center as a Library Services Manager over Organizational Development and Partnerships.

Elizabeth Muñoz-Rosas, the second recipient, is one of the most popular librarians at Gilroy Library, where she serves as the Children’s Supervising Librarian. Muñoz-Rosas has advocated effectively to bring materials, services and programs to her community that reflect the interests of all residents. Her advocacy for Spanish language materials ensures that library patrons see their lives and stories reflected in the collection.

She has also spearheaded programs of great relevance to the community of Gilroy. This includes working with the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service to bring the bilingual exhibit Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields to the Gilroy Library.More than 1,300 total visitors were able to enjoy this free exhibit. To coincide with the opening of the exhibit, Muñoz-Rosas organized a panel of distinguished speakers, including Dolores Huerta, to discuss the plight of the farmworker and Huerta’s legacy. More than 600 community members attended the program.

Muñoz-Rosas first began her career with SCCLD in 2007 as a part-time librarian at the Campbell Library.

County Librarian Jennifer Weeks said: “Clare and Elizabeth are truly talented and dedicated library staff who have worked tirelessly to improve their communities’ quality of life. While this is something we have always known, we are thrilled that they are both getting nationwide recognition. We hope their groundbreaking and inspiring work and advocacy encourage other library systems across the country to campaign for their patrons’ well-being, just as Clare and Elizabeth have done.”

With that, I would say, let’s continue patronizing the public library. They are there to serve us!

That’s perhaps, the reason why I served the Milpitas Public Library as a Library Education and Advisory Commissioner (LEAC) for 12 years as a member and eventually as chair for most of the years.

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