Letter to the Editor: April 15, 2015

Published 7:53 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

To the Editor:

The Pew Research Center, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, found that 90% of Americans believed that their local library had a significant impact upon their community.

The library functions as the cultural and intellectual center of the community. Last year Brown Library sponsored 139 programs about everything from teen book discussions to toddler story times. These programs were attended by 3,040 people. Free internet access at Brown Library allows city and county residents to search for jobs and fill out applications on line, as well as prepare resumes. Many enterprises require online applications; we can help.

The library functions as a portal for lifelong learning. Libraries have been called the “people’s university” in that they are open to all, regardless of age, skill level, or the ability to pay, providing a ladder to social mobility for even those in the lowest quartile of socio-economic status. Names such as Dr. Benjamin Carson and Dr. Mae Jemison, who benefited from the intellectual stimulation of libraries, come to mind. The opportunity to work one’s way up starts at the public library for many people.

The library also bridges the digital divide. You can learn Mandarin Chinese, learn about and read Australian literature or how to write computer code – all online and all free – yet a large percentage of people in Beaufort County do not have internet access except at their public library.

The library helps children improve their reading ability through summer reading programs. Reading ability has been linked to success in higher education and life. Last year 286 children, (ages 3 – 12) signed up for Brown Library’s Summer Reading Program. There were 23 programs with a total attendance of 967. In addition, 30 young adults, (ages 13 – 18) signed up for the Young Adult Summer Reading Program. There were 5 programs with a total of 97 attendees.

The library provides books for beach reading and educational reading. Last year Brown Library bucked the conventional wisdom that print is dying by circulating 74,594 adult books, 9,170 young adult books, and 41,702 juvenile books.

The communities of Washington and Beaufort County are in the position of having these services within a jewel of a building, the Brown Memorial Library. We are very fortunate to have a staff of dedicated workers and volunteers that make all of the above mentioned programs and technology available to us. We also owe much to the Friends of the Brown Library for their financial and moral support.

Difficult economic times have been visited upon our community. The losses of the business privilege license taxes ($120,000 – $125,000) and the rental fees from idX Impressions Building ($400,000) put the Original Washington in a tough financial situation.

Yet we cannot be shortsighted in our search for a solution to the budget shortfall. We cannot only think in terms of quarterly or annual reports or of fiscal years. We need to think about how a great community becomes and stays a great community. What decisions need to be made to ensure the greatness of our community, for ourselves and for generations to come?

Joe Phipps

Member of Brown Library Board of Trustees