Yes, April 15 to 21 is National Library Week 2007. It’s a time to celebrate again the contributions of our nation's libraries, our librarians, and our library workers, as well as to promote library use and support. That’s what the American Library Association says about the annual event that it has sponsored since 1958.
In our community, we are blessed with our outstanding local and county libraries and the richness of the exceptional academic libraries at UNC. Libraries are a vital component of the quality of life that we enjoy and I think it would be a rare citizen who couldn’t think of a way that a library has made a difference in their life. To say that libraries are transforming places would not be an overstatement.
We are also blessed in Chapel Hill with having a top-notch library director, a truly wonderful group of committed professional staff members, tireless volunteers, and two special organizations dedicated to enhancing our library, The Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library, and The Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation.
For me, libraries have always been extraordinary places to learn and grow, as well as find new materials to explore, and new ideas to ponder. And best of all, they are places that offer unlimited enjoyment. When we initially arrived in Chapel Hill, one of the first things I did was to go get my library card. As a fan of libraries, I was amazed with how robust a collection and how beautiful a facility we had here in our community.
Not too long after getting my card, I met a friend from our New York days who also had moved to Chapel Hill. She was on the Library Board of Trustees and knowing that I had chaired the library committee for an academic institution in New York, she encouraged me to get involved here. I eventually served on the Library Board and had the opportunity to serve as its chair for two terms.
Working closely with an academic library and then a community library, I have been able to witness personally the technological revolution that has occurred, and in my opinion, changes made have been for the good of all. I can’t tell you how outraged some of those professors were back in the early 1990s when they learned that the card catalog was being retired and would be replaced by a terminal. They were not shy about expressing their feelings, as they were uncertain about the coming changes. Now, those terminals seem very much at home in libraries and we have adjusted to the change.
In Chapel Hill, our automated catalog now uses a graphics environment and provides patrons with much more online information about the collection than it once did. We also have a beautiful web page that provides lots and lots of information and has content in Spanish. Our library also has Internet access and a wireless capability throughout. In other words, we are high tech and will become even more so in the years to come.
But libraries are not just about machines and technology, they are also about people and the services that are provided. For example, in partnership with UNC, we have computer classes. In conjunction with The Friends, we have several popular programs like the “Books Sandwiched In” Club, “meet the author” opportunities, and special learning occasions like the series on the Constitution.
Children’s programming and circulation continue to grow at a rapid rate; and overall, the Chapel Hill Public Library continues to be the busiest per capita circulation public library in North Carolina. This demand locally for library programming is matched with the demand for accessible community meeting space. Hence, the bond that voters approved to expand our beautiful facility should allow us to offer more space to provide what citizens clearly want.
Go to the library web site < http://www.chapelhillpubliclibrary.org> and see what’s happening during National Library Week and beyond. You can also go to < http://www.friendschpl.org> and see what The Friends are doing to further the excellence of Chapel Hill Public Library. They raise money for library needs through their book sales, sponsor programs for adults and children, and foster interest in the library. Another place to visit is < http://www.chplfoundation.org> to see what the Library Foundation is doing as part of their “ensuring excellence” campaign. They and The Friends have made significant contributions to the library and they solicit community support to make it possible.
Yes, this week is National Library Week, and our library is a truly special resource. Use it! Everyone who helps to make it the special place that it is should be remembered not just during this week, but every week. After all, having a community jewel is a good thing, and recognizing that it is so special is even better!
Previous columns are available at www.columnsbyfredblack.blogspot.com