Opinion Editorial by Edward Bertorelli
June 25, 2001
Director, Communications & Public Information
Local Libraries Serve Community Through the Changing Times
The 21st century has been coined the "Information Age." Technology now allows us to communicate instantly with family and friends, plan vacations, take college courses, shop for groceries, access our own personalized news casts, or even watch a sunset in Hawaii, all by a few simple clicks from our computer's mouse pad. Technology has transformed the way we get our information to work and live.
With all of this information at our fingertips, what role does a public library have in our community? Since the late 19th century, libraries have played a vital role in shaping communities. Initially called "social clubs" libraries catered only to the wealthy. In the early 20th century, public libraries quickly became a mecca of information for all. Immigrants used the library to access international newspapers from their homeland and for self study. During the Depression the library provided heat and shelter to citizens, and after World War II soldiers completed college courses from free textbooks available at the library.
Today, libraries continue to be a valuable community and educational resource. Libraries across the Commonwealth provide computers and Internet access free of charge. In addition to keeping up with the technological needs of the community, libraries host reading programs and family events, offer museum passes free of charge, and skilled librarians are available to assist in research. Libraries have subscriptions to medical and legal databases that provide medical journals and specific information about new treatments for certain diseases, law journals, etc. Libraries are constantly changing to meet the needs of their community.
This week the Massachusettts Board of Library Commissioners will launch a public awareness campaign to reintroduce residents to their local library. The campaign will use a humorous approach to an information resource that has withstood the test of time through emerging technology and dwindling economies. The campaign will feature television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) and a Web component; a print component will be added this fall. The PSAs showcase typical scenarios weaved into 'not so typical' conversations, testament to the fact: "Your local library. All the information you need, and some you don't."
This public awareness campaign is part of our continuing effort to highlight our libraries as hidden jewels of the local library.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.