The Lawrence Public Library has been suffering growing pains for a long time. There is, as there should be, considerable effort to find ways to expand the library to provide more room for just about everything, including people who find it a rewarding and necessary destination.
It is interesting, though not comforting, that libraries in many other communities also are having similar problems as the local library. Bottom line: Numerous libraries now lack space, wiring and funds to expand Internet access despite growing demands for personal computers. How many other public facilities are finding that their wiring and electrical systems are overtaxed to the point of potential danger?
A recent Associated Press dispatch out of New York notes that YouTube, online job applications and homework help sites have boosted demand and contributed to lines at computers at the nation's public libraries. Yet a new survey finds the majority have no immediate plans to add computers. Consider the wait for computers you might have encountered at the Lawrence library, or the fact you cannot get some popular books without a week or so delay.
Many libraries simply do not have enough room, and their electrical wiring can't deliver the required power. Others are already struggling to maintain their hours, buy books and encourage youths to read.
"We have this entirely brand new service coming to libraries, but the funding has not recognized that," Kathleen Reif, director of the St. Mary's County Library in Leonardtown, Md., told the AP. "We're still continuing the books, the outreach, the work with young children and the student support."
A new study from the American Library Association finds the average number of public Internet terminals largely unchanged since 2002, yet only 1 in 5 libraries say they have enough computers to meet the demand.
Considering the diminishing literacy rate in America, encouraging people of all ages to read should be the No. 1 motivational force for cities, such as Lawrence, to bring libraries up to date.