Libraries are Our Community Gems by Paula Baines

Libraries Are Our Community Gems by Paula Baines

How many of you have visited a library in the last week? In the last month? In the last few months? In the last year.

The library of the 21st century is not the library of yesteryear.  It is not just a building full of books and a bank of computers.  There are over 17 thousand libraries from very large to tiny rural libraries in the U.S. 2.5 billion materials are circulated annually in the U.S.

Libraries are our community gems.  They add value to our communities in five broad areas-(retrieved on 11/4/2015 from

  1. Libraries are community builders.
  2. Libraries are community centers.
  3. Libraries are centers for the arts.
  4. Libraries are personal universities.
  5. Libraries are champions of youth.

If you have not stepped into a local library in a while, I encourage you to open their door and step in. Over 94 percent of Americans have said that having a public library improves their community’s quality of life. Some have said libraries are like dinosaurs on the way to extinction. The internet and other media will replace its need. Statistics show the opposite.

A survey by the Institute of Museum and Library services which is tasked to monitor library usage has reported a 32.7 percent increase in annual visits to the library between 2001 and 2010. This likely increased has been spurred by the Great Recession-libraries offer so many different programs and services for free or low cost that they offer an affordable option for individuals and families for entertainment, internet access, job search assistance and educational resources.  As of last year-2014-98 percent of libraries offered free wireless internet, computers, 90 percent offered e-books, and 98 percent offered some form of formal or informal technical training.  Now a majority of libraries are using social media to connect with their patrons.

New models of libraries are sprouting up all over-from libraries offering recreation, entrepreneurship and content creation opportunities.  Patrons are no longer just consumers, they are seeking to create new content. Some libraries are offering classes and workshops to make that happen. Others are creating public and co-working spaces for business owners and entrepreneurs to connect.  These new models are attracting significant public investment in technology. Libraries are offer attractive and functional spaces for community members to meet. A place to build community and serve as a center.

Chicago, IL, Hudson, OH And Putney, VT…what do these places have in common? These communities have successfully transformed their libraries into hubs of vibrant communities.

If you have not guessed already?  I am a big fan of libraries. It is not about me. I wanted to share what libraries offer to you…

Our libraries offer many services from book loaning, reference library services, audio books, magazines, periodicals, book groups, genealogy services, children/youth services, etc.

They offer special collections, some created based on community need. They offer a place to serve as an archive-connect us with past-from oral history, photographic or video history records. They offer us a place to meet new people-story time for new moms and kids, computer classes to learn new software, or a place for the teen to share their poetry in a poetry slam.

Libraries can be our partners in community sustainability. They are more than books.

  • If you are an artist, they can display your work.
  • If you are a writer, they can offer classes to improve your writing.
  • If you are a business owner, you read the latest business trade periodical. Additionally, some are creating video conference rooms to use for free or small fee.

Some libraries have gone beyond that-They provide museum passes, book bags, place to host the local farmer’s market, or the center to learn to write a resume.

Libraries, librarians, and staff are often on the front line to see today’s social issues. Libraries can connect and collaborate to offer literacy services, English as a second language tutoring, after school programs, and even a summer free lunch program for area children.

I have shared with you how libraries are our gems, adding value to our communities’ quality of life.  Libraries are community builders, community centers, center for the arts, our own personal universities and champions of youth.

Despite increase usage over the last ten years, libraries are seeing a decline in municipal and state budgets.  The ax has come down in many communities, where like many non profits, libraries are asked to do more with less.  Many of our libraries have seen reduced hours, staff, and sometimes the closing of library branches.  Thankfully, folks like you and me vote with their dollar and continue to support public funding.

I ask you, to find a way to support your local library-donate your time, energy, used books, or dollars.  We can unearth these gems to others.  Take the time to visit. Open your mind, be curious, make your library your own university.

This speech was presented at the Bangor Toastmasters Club #897 on November 11, 2015-(Advanced Manual speech, Specialty Speeches, Project #3, Sales Presentation) by Paula Baines, CC, CL)


Information retrieved on 11/4/2015 from the following website:

Information retrieved on 11/4/2015 from the following website:

Information retrieved on 11/5/2015 from the following website:


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