By JEFF BRODY
Kitsap Regional Library
It may be hard to imagine the continued importance of public libraries in the age of the Internet, Amazon’s online book store and Google/Bing search.The modern library is not a dark, musty-smelling book warehouse patrolled by the quiet police.
Take a look at KRL’s plans for the new Kingston branch library and you’ll see a light, airy welcoming space that encourages people not only to browse the collection but also curl up with a book or meet with others to learn together. It is connected to the Internet with a high-speed, high-capacity portal you can use if you have a laptop, tablet or mobile device; if you don’t own such a device, you can use computers at your public library to connect to jobs or social networks.
While still offering more than 525,000 physical items patrons can borrow, KRL’s modern library system also has collections of thousands of ebooks and downloadable audiobooks, and millions of songs, that you can download and use for free.
New community libraries become gathering places and spur economic development. New libraries regularly see double the traffic and activity of the older facilities they replace. Where libraries are located strategically in areas that were in decline, as they were in Boise, Idaho, the new facilities provided a boost that generated redevelopment and new business activity.
All of this is the result of a relatively small cost to local taxpayers. The typical Kitsap household pays about $80 per year toward library service. If you borrow, instead of purchase, a few books, a few DVDs and a couple of music CDs in a year, you will get more in return than you’ve spent for your share of KRL’s operations.
But even more valuable, KRL makes a world of information accessible to you and helps you navigate that world. KRL still gets about 115,000 reference inquiries each year, helping residents find answers to questions for work or school projects. Our reference librarians have even helped local authors write more accurate and detailed books.
The art of library reference is not dead.
— Jeff Brody is communications director of Kitsap Regional Library.