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The future of public libraries in question

In the recent past, through a day of absence, several movements have tried to raise awareness and appreciation for some things we take for granted.

Posted 11/22/17

By Lisa Nowatzki

For example, A Day Without a Newspaper, A Day Without a Woman, and A Day Without an Immigrant, are just some of the causes that have been used to illuminate underappreciated people and things. Unfortunately, some in our society believe that our communities have outgrown the need for one institution that has survived and even flourished since the seventh or eighth century BC. Try to imagine a life without a library.

The first known libraries were more than a collection of dried paper and mud bricks. Ancient libraries were part of the heart of a city and a culture. Scholars and statesmen, artists and architects, and everyone in between used and frequented the town library. More than any place in a city, the library stands out as the cultural heart of the community.

Not much has changed in more than two thousand years. People seeking answers and cultural enlightenment still go to the library. What kind of society or cultural history would we have without a library?

Many make the argument that the sun has nearly set on the community library and its days are numbered. No one can argue that the role of a library has changed, with the invention of PCs, smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. However, each and every library across the country continues to play a vital role in community and social development.

Our local librarian or library director, Shannon Nuelle, believes that libraries are important to the community because they continue to offer many materials and services to people that may not be able to afford them. “We are very fortunate to have a supportive county and community that allows us to continue to offer these vital services.” she explained.

The Cavalier County Library, located at 600 5th Avenue in Langdon fills such a role. When looking at the multitude of services offered by the Cavalier County Library, it is by no means unique. Many townships have libraries that offer much of the same services.

For all who have not visited the library in town, here are some of the programs offered. Lending books-a program synonymous with all libraries- the Langdon Library does lend books and not just traditional books but e-books, audiobooks and DVDs at no charge. Three local newspapers and 15 magazines are also free to read. Story time is also offered during the school year. Our library offers children three and up a chance to hear a story read to them, make a craft, and eat a small snack.

The library offers a summer reading program and other classes for children in grades 1-12. The library is also a designated site for test proctoring for online college students. On the library website are links to the online card catalog, an e-book checkout system, and links to free online tutoring through the North Dakota State Library. The library also houses three computers and offers free WIFI.

Visually or hearing impaired? The library has hundreds of audio and large print books available. Want to learn about North Dakota history? The North Dakota room has historical items dating back to the 1930’s. This includes microfilm of local newspapers dating back to the late 1800’s. Want to uncover your family lineage, do a little genealogy research? The library has a subscription to Ancestry.com – free to use.

With over 27,000 items to check out and hundreds of thousands more via the internet, after school programs, helping college students, reading assistance for the visual and hearing impaired, and much more, how can anyone put a price on this vital community asset? Yes, the county budget supports the county library.

County taxpayers support our local library. According to the Data USA website, Cavalier County has one of the highest average population age in the nation, 50.8 years old. It is safe to say that some elderly residents do not have a computer or a smartphone. Their only exposure to the World Wide Web and internet is at the library. For other residents, reading is one of the only free hobbies they can enjoy.

Do you know anyone deaf and/or blind in the community? Tell them they have to purchase their audible books from Amazon.com. Tell them they have to buy large print and e-books. Have you ever tried to tell a four-year-old that they cannot have a story at bedtime? The local library can help with these services.

At a recent county commission meeting, they discussed the future of our library. One commissioner spoke of a visit and tour of NDSU. According to that commissioner, the group was informed that the NDSU library was the most underused building on campus, nothing more than a book depository.

When contacted, NDSU Library Dean Joe Mocnick replied, “The NDSU Libraries continue to be the academic and social center of the university. The libraries provide stimulating environments that nurture curiosity and create lifelong learners. The libraries give students access to hundreds of thousands full-text professional journals and periodicals. We offer an array of services, resources and facilities to meet student and faculty educational and research needs. Some of our services include 3-D printing, areas for group and quiet study, student disability services and reference and research services.”

Closing libraries is just the start: our guaranteed right to freedom of speech and the press have also been rigorously vetted and questioned. Political correctness and thin skin are symptoms of a larger societal disease that has infected a large portion of the population. Free, public libraries and library access combat those that would try to stifle our voices. We cannot afford to close even one.


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