National Library Lovers Month Reminds Us Why Libraries Matter | News
PRINCETON — Along with fire departments, grocery stores and schools, public libraries are an important part of many communities, so their service to the public is celebrated this month.
February is National Library Lover’s Month, a time to celebrate the services libraries provide to the public. The region’s libraries are doing more in the internet age than lending books.
“It’s still a central place to get information,” said Benjamin Broyles, a clerk at the Princeton Public Library. “We always have a repository of information not found elsewhere; moreover, we have a lot of physical recordings. We have archives of old newspapers and we have access to computers.
“Another example is our room in West Virginia,” he said. “It has a great amount of local history. We also have documents from local authorities which are not widely distributed. Also in the West Virginia Room we have tons of microfilm rolls with newspapers from the early 1900s and we believe some are from the 1800s.”
Facilities like the Princeton Public Library are a good hub for community events, Broyles said.
“We have book sales every month,” he added.
Public libraries also provide computer access to many local people who don’t have internet access, said director Eva McGuire of the Craft Memorial Library.
“We still have a good chunk of our population that doesn’t have internet access,” McGuire said. “They don’t have computers. They are looking for jobs, and many jobs now only have an online application. They use computers at the library to fill them out.
McGuire said the library is helping students do much of their school work through remote and remote learning.
“Just because you give a kid a laptop doesn’t mean they have internet access at home,” she said. “They come to the library to upload work, submit schoolwork and do research.”
Besides access to computers, libraries often hold regional information that is not always available on the Internet. An example is the Eastern Regional Coal Archive at the Craft Memorial Library.
“It’s the story of our region,” McGuire said.
And in the age of e-books, there’s still a place for shelves full of the print variety.
“We still have a lot of people who want to read printed copies of things,” McGuire said.
Programs that the public can attend at the library offer relief from the isolation inflicted on many people by COVID-19.
“I think a lot of people appreciate more being able to go out and attend programs and see others in a safe environment,” she added.
Further south in Welch, the McDowell County Public Library also offers Internet service to its patrons, in an area where access can be particularly difficult to find. and many patrons still want to read books they can hold, said director Barbara Fields. The library also has room Welch Daily News in its archives; some copies date back to around 1918. This makes the library a resource for people researching their family’s past and local history.
“We have a lot of people from out of state contacting us for obituaries, certain records, and we’ll get them,” Fields said. “You’d be surprised. We get three or four calls a day. A man from Jacksonville, Florida called about a murder that happened here.
People come to research the microfilm archives, and some even call the library to find phone numbers, she added. Libraries also offer other resources; for example, they still offer tax forms. and the McDowell County Public Library has a West Virginia History Room with books and exhibits.
“We also have a children’s library and we have story time,” Fields said. The library also has a book club and a music club; the two clubs meet once a month.
Libraries are like community centers, said deputy director Chris Wilkes of the Tazewell County Public Library, which has branches in Tazewell, Va., as well as Bluefield, Va. and Richlands, Va.
“We welcome many different age groups from all walks of life. We have upper-class patrons and lower-class patrons and we welcome them as equals, and that’s how we like to see the library,” Wilkes said. “It’s just a common space for the public, so you can have different people from different groups and demographics in one place.”
The Tazewell County Public Library also runs many outreach programs, he added.
“I will soon be doing programs with the historical society. Our children’s librarian, she goes and works with nursery schools, works with Main Street School in Tazewell which is a private Christian school,” Wilkes said. “We also work a lot directly with high schools. In the area, we have a program where we automatically give out free digital library cards to all students in Tazewell County so they can check out e-books or check out some of our databases; Plus, beyond the books, we have historical resources you probably couldn’t find in other areas. Our Virginia Room has stuff not only about Tazewell, but about Southwest Virginia, about Southern West Virginia.
The library is working to make more local materials available online.
“Right now I have about 100 yearbooks that I’m about to send to the Library of Virginia to digitize for the public,” Wilkes said. “You can be anywhere in the country, but if you want to see your 1973 yearbook, you can download it online; and I’m scanning newspapers here that are from Tazewell county like Clinch Valley News. We digitize them through the Library of Virginia.
Public libraries are important in rural communities like Grundy, Va., said Brian F. Shortridge, director of the Buchanan County Public Library.
“We’re a lot like the town square,” he said. “People can come here regardless of race or age. We are the great democratization of this world. We are no longer just a book depository. We are truly the meeting place where ideas are shared. I think that’s one of the things we can thrive on. Hopefully we will overcome this pandemic and get back to work. »
Like other libraries, the Buchanan County Public Library offers special programs for the public. In an upcoming example, Francis Gary Powers Jr., son of U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers, will be at the library Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. He will talk about his father’s experiences before and after being shot down in the Soviet Union.
In another show, Burt Foster, winner of the second season of the History Channel’s Forged In Fire, will be at the library on March 3. The show will begin at 6 p.m. .
“It will describe the process and tools needed to make a knife,” Shortridge said. “He will guide the audience step by step through the forging process. He will present examples of his work and answer questions from the public.
The library is working to serve as many people as possible, he said.
“We try to offer a wide variety of programs for people who have a lot of different interests,” Shortridge said. “We try to serve the general public. We are a public library and we try to take this responsibility seriously.
— Contact Greg Jordan at [email protected]