Editorials

Libraries still start bonfires using the lamp of knowledge

Wi-Fi Hotspots available at Belleville Public Library

Belleville, IL Public Library director Lee Spearman talks about the newly available Wi-Fi hot spots for those with a library card to check out for up to a month in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO.
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Belleville, IL Public Library director Lee Spearman talks about the newly available Wi-Fi hot spots for those with a library card to check out for up to a month in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO.

Sitting on the floor between the towering shelves reading whatever you wanted. Collecting stickers for the books you’ve read in the summer reading program. Crowding the aisle with other students trying to find something in the bookmobile visiting your school. Sitting at a heavy oak table writing down source information on three-by-five cards for a term paper.

Well, the internet has made all of that into nostalgia, right? Libraries are irrelevant with the world’s knowledge in our pockets, right?

Apparently not.

Three recent examples have demonstrated that there remains a need, but also that our libraries are reinventing themselves to meet those needs. Beneath it all, though, the mission remains the same: Give people more access to more information than they otherwise could find or afford on their own.

Lebanon has 4,000 residents and its library draws 25,000 visitors a year to its 1,200-square foot space. There is a line for the computers, so they bought a building and are moving to a space nearly 9 times the size of the current library.

Belleville is using donations to offer mobile internet devices and laptops to patrons who need to continue working on the internet after library hours. The library also has 3D printers available and is putting little libraries around town to reach out to more readers.

Belle Valley School District is using a grant to put a bookmobile on the streets to give students access to books when school is out for the summer or holidays.

If you’ve seen “Hidden Figures,” or better yet read Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, you know NASA’s ability to put John Glenn into orbit hinged on Dorothy Vaughan learning Fortran from a library book, albeit one she had to steal from a segregated Virginia library.

Whatever form they take, libraries remain places staffed by experts in finding information and continue offering those with limited opportunity or resources a place to slake their thirst for knowledge.

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