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Renewing Our Libraries – Renaissance Now!

The time has come to make a commitment to modernize our libraries and provide the valuable resources needed by our friends, families, and neighbors. We need additional hours and new facilities.

A survey recently released by Library Journal ranks Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) 21st out of the 24 county library systems (including Baltimore City) in the state of Maryland. This is atrocious for a county that boasts high education levels, very high levels of affluence, and some of the greatest schools and cultural and arts organizations in the state.

The time has come to make a commitment to modernize our libraries and provide the valuable resources needed by our friends, families, and neighbors — all of us. This investment is of fundamental importance to the entire community — children, grandchildren, students of all ages and senior citizens. No other county-funded entity impacts so many of its residents, providing educational opportunities, enhancing the quality of the workforce, and contributing to the economic vitality of our community today. Libraries ensure that in generations to come, our minds, the quality of our lives, and our potential for personal growth will flourish.

A few key factors limit AACPL’s capacity to adequately serve our communities, especially when compared to our neighboring jurisdictions. Perhaps the most important of these are our limited operating hours. In addition, among our peers we’re scraping the bottom in per capita square footage. Our libraries have just half the minimum space recommended by the State Department of Education.

What’s needed? In the immediate future, the library will ask the County Executive and County Council to fund a full operating schedule in Fiscal 2014, as well as a reinstatement of Sunday hours at Crofton and Severna Park Libraries. And for the sixth year in a row, we will request funding for a new Annapolis Library.

Town Hall meetings are planned for February and March to provide further details about our need for additional hours and new facilities. More information about these gatherings will be forthcoming on our website, www.aacpl.net, on our Facebook page, and in the branches. Let your County Executive and County Councilman know that the time to modernize our library system is now!

Note: This article is a shortened version of a guest column we first wrote for the Capital. The full article, with tables and charts that illustrate our current weekly hours, our ranking against our peers in space and funding per capita, a list of 23 new libraries opened in surrounding counties in recent years, and the dates of community meetings, is at http://tinyurl.com/ModernizeAnneArundelLibraries.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

black cherry January 03, 2013 at 05:45 AM
I must say despite having 2 AACPL within 5 minutes of my house I do tend to frequent other county libraries. Libraries are a dying breed and people do not hold them in the same high regard as they used too. This generation of up and comers, have an attitude of entitlement and a I want it now view, so they tend to see the value of libraries and rather pay for things. Libraries are great because it allow us to borrow items versus using them and tossing them after a short while. I try to encourage alot of people I come in contact to use these resources provided because there is so much that they offer. It would be nice though if AAC looks as some of the other local library systems and see what they could offer to draw more patrons.
Chris W January 04, 2013 at 11:38 AM
You miss my point. I am not arguing that we should do away with libraries, i have used the library many times. My points are these 1) the demand for services that the library provides is reduced greatly by advances in technology and 2) the library can meet some demands by embracing modern technology. If you have ever tried to borrow an ebook, you would know what I mean. The process is cumbersome. Additionally, you have the book for a short period of time after which it expires. If you have not completed the book you must go through the cumbersome process again. Your point about "pricy e-book subscriptions" is off the mark. The e-readers are now much less expensive. Probably less than what some people pay for athletic shoes. Books in e-book format are cheaper than print copies in most cases. Most of the the big book sellers have some very inexpensive content. Some even have book loan programs. The world is changing. My wife (who is a Librarian ) used the library regularly for years. She was probably there once every week or two. Now that she has an e-reader, she is there much less frequently. So again, I'm not advocating bulldozing the libraries. I am saying there is no critical need for expansion in the digital age.
Richard Hertz January 06, 2013 at 11:16 PM
If they're so "invaluable," let's see if they can survive in the marketplace. From your post I'm sure you'll think that's an awful idea, but governments everywhere are running out of money. Just because libraries were integral parts of communities 30 years ago doesn't mean they still are. Also, I note that you decry online purchases at the expense of local retailers, meanwhile, your parents are borrowing books from the library 3 times a week instead of purchasing them from local retailers. It's people like you and your parents that are driving our local bookstores out of business!
Richard Hertz January 06, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Government rarely downsizes. Libraries fall in the same category as post offices. Try to close some or downsize and the locals all cry foul. It's integral to the community, how will people get by without it, etc. The cries are all the same. It's ludicrous to think we need libraries now as much as we needed them 30 years ago. The internet is changing the world, but government agencies refuse to accept it and allow the internet to take over many of the library's services. I still can't pay my property taxes online without incurring huge credit card fee. Ninety-nine percent (by weight) the mail the post office delivers to me is garbage. The real problem is that the government doesn't look at citizens as customers that need to be pleased, we're more like subjects that exist to finance the desires of our rulers.
Richard Hertz January 06, 2013 at 11:35 PM
"Libraries are great because it allow us to borrow items versus using them and tossing them after a short while." You must really like the idea of e-books! If the libraries aren't drawing enough patrons, maybe, just maybe, it's because the patrons don't really need the libraries. This sounds like the recent push to find more people to enroll in the food stamps program. So gov't is going to spend money to find more patrons so that they can spend even more money on that particular service.

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