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Last login: Friday, October 6, 2006
Besides fulfilling a purely "utilitarian" function through dispensing information, public libraries provide materials for recreational use in the form of fiction books, movies, music recordings, and other materials.
As a resident of the New Orleans metropolitan area, I know that public libraries are a vital part of my community. Because of Hurricane Katrina, we lost many public library branches due to flooding and wind damage. Local governments made quick and determined efforts to reopen these library facilities promptly, because residents rely on them for materials in rebuilding efforts. For example, residents use these libraries for books on plumbing, construction, and electrical work.
When New Orleans area residents evacuated from Hurricane Katrina, they visited public libraries in other areas to locate news stories on the hurricane, to reconnect with friends and relatives through e-mail, and to apply for disaster assistance.
A public library is a vital part of a community, and I hope that your residents will see that support for your library services and better Internet access complement one another.
October 6, 2006 at 4:43 p.m.
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A friend alerted me to Mr. Hirschey's comments on a proposed new library in your community. While I'm not familiar with all of the details about the proposal, I have worked as a librarian for the last 16 years and feel compelled to comment.
As a librarian, I use the Internet daily at work and at home. I recognize its great value and its limitations. I use my local public library at least once a week - sometimes more. I use both for business and pleasure.
Mr. Hirschey appears to be enamored with such things as e-mail, blogs, instant messaging, and the wealth of stuff on the Internet. From my reading of his comments, he seems to pit financial support for broadband access versus financial support for library services. I don't fully know the financial realities of public sector budgets in Lawrence, but this strikes me as being a false dilemma. I see support for public libraries and increased Internet accessibility as being complementary and not in opposition with each other.
While it is true that there is a wealth of things on the Internet, it is also true that much of the material on the Internet is not verifiable. Anyone can post statements to websites, message boards, blogs, etc., without having to back up their assertions. In using these sites, we must trust that the responsible parties are being truthful with their users.
Mr. Hirschey speaks of information resources on the web, but he makes no reference to the many online materials that the local library provides. A quick visit to the Lawrence Kansas Public Library website showed me that your library, like other community libraries, subscribes to subscription databases. These databases provide access to full text materials, including newspapers, scholarly journals, and reference sources. These materials are not free; they are available because your library obtains them through paid subscriptions. If your library did not exist, your residents would either have to do without them or access these materials on a "pay per view" basis.
October 6, 2006 at 4:41 p.m.
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