SOUNDOFF: Libraries are all about people

Every year, in the third week of April, we celebrate National Library Week. It is a special time to recognize library staff who have made it their life’s work to bring books, reading, and learning to people of all ages; it is a special time to recognize Friends of the Library and other library volunteers, who have found a special calling in enhancing their local library; it is a special time for each of us, who find pleasure, education, and fun every time we use the library.

Libraries have transformed themselves over the last decade, but oddly enough, the more libraries change, the more they really stay the same. Let me begin by telling you what libraries are NOT:

They are not books.

They are not librarians.

They are not storytimes.

Libraries are people. Libraries are community. Libraries are the bridge between lifelong and learning.

Not too many years ago, there was some speculation that with the growth of the Internet libraries would somehow become obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth. But you don’t need to believe me. Take a look at the facts:

Last year, 6.1 million books, videos, and other library materials were checked out of Sno-Isle libraries. That’s 500,000 more than the year before.

There were nearly three million visits to the Sno-Isle Libraries web page in 2003, launching users into searches of the library catalog, databases, or other online services

On average, there are 233,000 visits each month to Sno-Isle’s 20 libraries.

52 percent of voters in the library district approved an increase to the library’s levy rate, allowing us to continue providing library service at its current level.

Friends of the Library groups raised more than $200,000 for their local, community libraries.

The Stanwood/Camano Island and Oak Harbor communities are gearing up for library elections this year, with goals of building libraries that will better serve their growing communities.

The Oak Harbor and South Whidbey Island communities reminded us for the second year in a row that reading is really at the heart of library service. Both communities sponsored reading events, bringing friends and families, neighbors and co-workers, together to share their different experiences with a single book.

We are celebrating 2004 as the Year of the Book at all Sno-Isle libraries. Reading and the support of reading for all ages is a tradition of libraries, and is happening every day in all 20 Sno-Isle community branches.

National Library Week is not a time for the communities to thank libraries. It’s a time for libraries to thank communities — for sustaining a vital public service that touches people from early childhood well into adulthood.

Thank YOU for making libraries a part of your lives.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is library director for Sno-Isle libraries.

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