By Debby Farmer
“When I was young, we couldn’t afford much. But, my library card was my key to the world.” – actor John Goodman
The other day I was asked how much it cost to get a library card. The gentleman was truly amazed when I said he could have one free of charge. His level of excitement proved to me that he obviously realized the value of that blue piece of plastic.
True, he had to meet certain criteria, I explained, such as owning or renting property or working in Whatcom County, but most of the library’s funding, I continued, comes from property taxes and not from membership charges.
This man’s misconception got me to thinking how many other people were out there still not utilizing library materials and services.
(For the purpose of communicating library news in this column, I would be remiss if I didn’t elaborate on the library’s revenue.
The Whatcom County Library System is legally entitled to a maximum of .50 per $1000 of assessed property valuation, but because of the recent past’s 1 percent yearly cap on revenue increases, that figure is decreasing each year and is a projected .32 for 2008.)
Despite these funding woes and some percentage of non-users still remaining in the community, the Blaine library has experienced an influx of library users, and a 50 percent plus increase in library material circulation in the past four years.
As it strives to uphold its high level of service and focus on providing the community with fresh and diverse material collections, it is constantly on the lookout for proven and innovative ways to streamline operations. With that in mind, coming soon patrons will have the opportunity to pick up their own holds.
As more people take advantage of submitting requests on items at other branches, they are coming to the library solely to pick up those items once arrived. These patrons will be able retrieve their materials, and have the option to check them out themselves or take them to a staff person at the desk. Patrons will have the choice as to how much or little interaction they want with staff.
As the library is looking for ways to streamline operations, it is also reflecting what many households are doing in these tough economic times. People are turning to the public library to fill not only informational needs, but entertainment ones as well.
A young woman recently told how she had just finished reading a book on money-saving ideas, and was following the suggestion to borrow DVDs from the library instead of renting them from the video store.
The number grows daily of individuals and families disconnecting cable or satellite when realizing the vast choices available for viewing pleasure from their local library. Others utilize the public internet stations or free wifi service with their laptops. And at $25 plus for the price of a new bestseller, an avid reader can literally save hundreds of dollars.
In the weeks ahead, Whatcom County Library System will be rolling out a new logo and tagline. And as has been pointed out in the above, this tagline, “The Best Place to Begin,” should prove to be an accurate assessment of the library’s value to the community.
And if you haven’t already done so, stop by the Blaine Library and pick up your own “key to the world.”
“Libraries are community treasure chests, loaded with a wealth of information available to everyone equally, and the key to that treasure chest is the library card. I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.”
– first Lady Laura Bush
“Getting my library card was like citizenship; it was like American citizenship.”
- Oprah Winfrey