Public Reaffirms Importance of MRL Libraries
During April in the Massanutten Regional Library system you could have received help preparing your taxes or homework, researched family information, gained assistance on a job resume, taken a driving test, applied for a job on-line, learned to knit and crochet, attended a debate on the Shroud of Turin, participated in an author talk or storytime, and the entire family could have been entertained by a professional storyteller.
You could have also accessed the library online. Some 20,000 individuals check out the library website each month.
Then again, you could have checked out a book.
Talk to any librarian and inevitably the word “community” will come up. Libraries are learning centers in which individuals can gain assistance with uploading an e-book or practice computer skills. While it’s true libraries have always been community resources, libraries too often are suggested by politicians as the “chopping block” for budgeting.
“Sure we want our police departments and fire departments funded fully, but we are hopeful we never have to use their services,” says one library employee, “but we see evidence that the public needs and wants our services on a daily basis. Libraries are not luxuries; they are necessities.”
Serving a population of 149,000, the Massanutten Regional Library system ranks 86th
out of 91 libraries across the Commonwealth. Its budget of $2.1 million is funded by state and local governments in the amount of $13.46 per person. The average per capita funding across the state is $31.44. Massanutten Regional Library also fund-raises around 10% of its annual budget.
During April the Massanutten Regional Library system participated in the Snapshot Virginia, a program in which each of the seven libraries in the system could pick a day and invite patrons to comment on the services their library offers. These patron comments, pictures, and usage figures are submitted to the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Library Association.
“Community” is one word heard repeatedly in Elkton Community Library’s comments. Some 86 citizens visited Elkton’s facility and participated in two programs on Wednesday, April 16. The librarian documented nine reference questions and 11 computer sessions. One school class also visited.
“The library is one of the most important places in Elkton, Va. My family and I use the library for books to enhance literacy, to borrow movies and books on CD, and to research information for use with Cub Scouts,” says Lisa Washmon.
“There is a sense of community, and a sharing of knowledge that is second to none! Irreplaceable!” explains Margaret King.
“Our library is like family,” writes Lara Blosser, Elkton.
“The library is a great asset to our community. It is utilized by all ages,” writes Dorenda D. Flick.
“A very important part of the community—without it no additional resource for our use. Elkton Library is our community heart…” comments Pamra McElroy.
“Community” echoed in North River Library’s comments on SnapshotVA Day Thursday, April 10. Some 55 children attended children’s storytime, and a Leaveners group of 20 members convened to discuss the status of racism. The Bridgewater branch saw a total of 136 customers on SnapshotVA Day.
“…we discussed the status of racism and ways we can help raise the consciousness of others so that improvement can occur. The library is an integral part of my life by providing me a source of information and pleasure,” explains Rebecca Liskey.
Sarah Birx writes, “…Thanks for all these great programs in our community!”
Two home school families wrote of their need for the Bridgewater branch in finding resources for teaching.
Some 178 people went through Page Public Library’s SnapshotVA Day Thursday, April 17. Some 24 individuals were there to use the computers.
One Page patron writes: “The library is such an important part of my life. I’m retired and read all the time. Without the library in this small town I wouldn’t have any books to read. Buying all the books I read would be an impossible expense.”
“My whole family utilizes the library for research, pleasure and internet use. Our librarian has been a part of our family and is very helpful when we are looking for books,” says Kendra Krebs.
Another patron comments, “To look for books and use the computer. My resources are limited. I am disabled so having services which I am unable to afford improves my quality of life.”
Shenandoah Community Library was a meeting place for two groups on its SnapshotVA Day, Tuesday, April 15. Some 18 individuals had specific questions to ask the librarian and 11 individuals utilized the computers. Some 62 patrons visited their library that seven-hour day.
“To use the computer to search for jobs,” writes one Shenandoah Community patron.
Cynthia Mora writes, “…I value the library because it has all kinds of resources to which I otherwise would not have access.”
“I so enjoy being able to come to borrow movies and books and use the computer. I bring my grandchildren to the summer programs and storytime. I would be very upset if I did not have the ability to use the public library,” explains Joanne Thibeault.
“I volunteer at the Shenandoah, VA, library and love seeing the little kids at storytime and how they find that special book to take home. This library is important to our community---we offer computers, fax service, research, and DVDs. It’s a great place to spend time,” says L. Rose.
Village Library in Broadway was the first MRL facility to conduct SnapshotVA Day on April 4. Some 131 patrons utilized the library that day. Some 21 individuals attended a special presentation, and 16 individuals logged in computer time.
Donna Sacra of Fulks Run explains the reason for her visit. “Internet is not available where I live, so I must depend on the Village Library. It’s the only way to keep up with emails, so I am very appreciative of being able to use the facility where the staff is so helpful.”
Beverley Mongold also visited the library to use the computer.
Likewise, Edna Green was appreciative of the computer time. “I needed some computer time. My computer is being repaired and the ladies here are very helpful at all times. This library is a great service to me and my family.” Green brings up the community theme. “They (the library) are a great part of our town. My family and I can get most books and reference material we need at any given time and everyone is very helpful with any request made of them. Broadway Library is an important part of my family’s life and of our town.”
Some 685 people visited the Main Branch of Massanutten Regional Library on Tuesday, April 15. The genealogy room was exceptionally busy. “The room was full,” says Cheryl Metz, Reference Librarian. “Both microfilm readers were in use, and the tables were full of individuals researching family history and local architecture.”
Sixty individuals logged in computer time; several wrote that they used the time for job research. Fifty individuals sought answers from the reference librarians. Eighty-two children participated in three programs.
One newcomer to Harrisonburg was researching resources for home schooling and comments, “…The selection here is much better than my library in Florida.”
Mark Dowdy is poetic. “…there’s an absolute treasure trove of knowledge and adventure to be accessed…”
Patron Les Felter is specific. “I am driving eight hours a day so I love the audio books.”
One library patron comments he can’t go to college, so he uses the library. Two patrons came in for tax forms, and another for insurance research. Another citizen chooses not to have TV in the home, but chooses her library for reading material and DVDs. Another library user especially appreciates the large print material. A volunteer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters uses the library as a meeting place for his volunteer role in the organization. A family vacationing in the area noticed the children coming into the facility and decided to try storytime. They write that they were not disappointed.
Brittany Firth doesn’t come in once a week to the library, but twice. So does Jessica Higgs. Dee Michael writes that she reads nearly 100 books each year. “…Couldn’t do without this place…”
One individual visits the Main Library “to bring people with intellectual disabilities so they could find items that are meaningful to them and will enhance their quality of life.”
“I love the availability of so many free resources. As a mental health social worker, I regularly bring clients here who would otherwise have no access to books, DVDs, and socialization opportunities,” writes another patron.
Martin Rhodes, accompanied by his children, writes, “The library is the cornerstone of our civic community. A thriving public library is an essential component of a free society as it provides its citizens with access to information and engenders a love of knowledge which is essential to intellectual and moral life. My family visits Massanutten Regional Library each week and it is one of the highlights of our week. The selection of materials is outstanding and the staff is excellent, helpful and accommodating. Our library is truly one of my favorite public places in the city of Harrisonburg.”
Bruce Ritchie claims he especially likes “the interlibrary loan service for hard-to-find books.”
Another community volunteer uses the Main Library “to teach English as a second language.”
Fidel G. Taparra, Jr., a volunteer for MRL, sums it up beautifully, “Libraries are the heart and soul of every city! A city is not a city unless there exists a library. Books are food for the mind. A city is brain dead without a library.”
Grottoes Branch Library saw 79 customers during its five-hour schedule on April 24, its SnapshotVA Day. The staff was busy passing out complimentary “Poems in Your Pocket” in celebration of Poetry Month and visiting a public school classroom and sharing the love of reading. The Lego Club met that day with 29 participants. The staff also reported answering 23 reference questions.
“…The library is important to my family because we enjoy the time spent together reading, using the computer and internet…I love that the library provides craft time, Lego time, community gatherings, and the personal relationships we have created…” writes one regular patron.
Emily McKeever writes, “Libraries allow my children and me to expand our horizons, encounter new adventures, and create an accessible atmosphere for everyone.”
Rebecca Fitzgerald appreciates the library because “…it keeps my child occupied with good things. Reading is awesome.”
Patricia Johnson writes that the library is good for her granddaughter to do homework and that she loves to get on the computer.
Yet one youth patron was succinct with his comment card. “I like the library because it can take me to places that are make-believe.”