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Are libraries obsolete?

By Staff | Jul 24, 2015

“This question is often asked of librarians,” said Hali Taylor, director of Shepherdstown Public Library. “And the answer is, no, absolutely not.”

Taylor spoke to the question on Friday, July 17th, at the monthly SAIL (Shepherdstown Area Independent Living) brown bag lunch event.

Taylor outlined compelling reasons as to the library’s relevance in a community, calling the public library a cornerstone of democracy. As such, the local library ensures the right to read, the right to privacy, and to access printed and electronic information. Local librarians provide assistance with how and which materials to access in an ocean of media availability. The library even has free downloads for electronic readers.

“‘Lifelong learning’ is the library motto,” said Taylor.

Programs for toddlers, support materials for kindergarten through 12th grade, information about trade skills, as well as college test prep and resume builders are all benefits of the education continuum provided by a local library.

Taylor cited that libraries have real, measurable, economic value in that they yield a seven to 10 percent return on invest per annum through better outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime. According to national data, 94 percent of people polled believe that libraries give everyone a chance to succeed, and 91 percent believe a local library improves quality of life.

Another key component to the relevance of a community library is the perfect embodiment of the “Third Space,” —-a space that is neither home, nor work. Taylor noted that a library allows people to be with others and connect with old friends (or make new ones) in a safe public space, and provides rooms for classes or meetings.

Those in attendance viewed a slide show of Shepherdstown’s Market House Library from its inception in 1800 to current day, followed by slides showing conceptual drawings of the much-anticipated new library, to be located across from the Clarion on Lowe Drive.

Using the Library standard of .7 square feet per capita, the initial structure will comprise 12,000 plus square feet, and will accommodate a collection of two items per capita, essentially doubling the existing collection materials size.

In addition, plans are to include combined seating for 128, cafe area for consumption of food and beverages, approximately 32 internet-ready computer work stations, multi-use meeting rooms, pedestrian and bicycle connections to the surrounding community and ample parking.

As financial benchmarks are met, additional features may include an outdoor event space and walking or exercise trails connecting to a greater network of trails in and around Shepherdstown.

Funding for the new $3.5 million facility will comprise of grants, various avenues of foundation sources, and individual and corporate donations.

The Market House Library in downtown Shepherdstown will remain a library.

For those wishing to learn more about the library project or opportunities financial giving, call the Shepherdstown Public Library 304-876-3229 or visit them online: lib.shepherdstown.wv.us

To find out more about the Shepherdstown Area Independent Living program and upcoming events, visit www.shepherdstownSAIL.org.