Celebrating our public libraries

Now that the furor, and some might say the ecstasy and the agony of the political season has somewhat waned, we can afford to focus on the many other things our communities do best. 

We can acknowledge those quality of life issues that make us so unique.

While some downtowns and libraries throughout the nation become irrelevant, or worse obsolete in poor economic times, the libraries in our communities have managed to grow and blossom.

Last month the San Diego County Library System, which is comprised of 31 individual city libraries, won the National Library of the Year Award for it’s outstanding level of excellence.

National recognition is no small thing and this award is both newsworthy and meritorious to the county and to our cities.

Being a resident of Encinitas makes it easiest to describe their success story though the attributes mentioned here are likely commonalities throughout the county system.

Encinitas has a beautiful library building overlooking a panoramic view of the ocean. The library has become a stand-alone tourist attraction. But it’s really the people and the programs inside the library that make it such a special place.

In addition to limited public funding, libraries have had to come up with innovative self sufficient ways to supplement their tight budgets such as used bookstores inside or adjacent to the library.

The Friends of the Encinitas Library Used Bookstore alone generated $60,000 in revenue last year by selling good condition donated popular paperbacks for 50 cents each and hardcover books for $1.50. They also sell collector books, DVDs and CDs. There are children and teen sections, fiction and nonfiction, cooking, travel, spirituality and hobby sections, sheet music, comics, and more.

Thanks to such funding, libraries are still a place made up of free books that can be borrowed. These days there are also lots of free e-books and free DVDs, magazines, and even computer terminals available for public use.

But libraries are also made up of the tremendous efforts of many individuals from the head librarians, management and marketing personnel, program and development staff, to technical support people and a multitude of volunteer workers. All of these people work for comparatively little pay and many of them for no pay other than the satisfaction and pride of being a part of a worthwhile whole.

Libraries today are a huge part of our communities’ culture and arts scene. They offer diverse social activities. You only need to check online or to pick up the Encinitas City’s Arts and Entertainment Calendar to see that free concerts from singer/songwriters to classical music, to piano recitals abound.

There are children’s programs, adult programs and senior programs. There are painting, language, literacy, writing, genealogy, and sculpture classes. There are monthly local artist exhibits, special event wellness programs, poetry and professional storytelling events, free yoga and zumba classes, family movie nights and much more.

Libraries thrive, and these programs thrive, because residents value and patronize them.

National awards don’t come easily and we all deserve to share in the knowledge and the pride of this moment when our cities have excelled.

Elizabeth Stines is an Encinitas resident.

 

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