Building communities through a public-library renaissance

Where can you surf the Web, listen to a CD, watch a play, and hang at out a cafe - all in one building? A good bet is a public library.

As the millennium approaches, communities large and small are reinvesting in public libraries as centers of learning, literacy, and culture in the Information Age.

And helping to inform Americans about the library resources in their area is National Library Week, April 9-15. It kicks off this Saturday with Connect for Kids Day - when local libraries will team up with neighboring community organizations to offer families an opportunity to learn about the educational, recreational, and other civic resources in their area.

The annual National Library Week is sponsored by the Chicago-based American Library Association (ALA) and library supporters throughout the United States.

"Among the ways [libraries build community] is by connecting parents and children with resources that can enrich their lives," says Sarah Ann Long, president of the ALA. "We hope Connect for Kids Day will remind families how libraries do this every day."

To find out what's planned for your area, contact a local public or school library.

Other programs and services that libraries are providing include family-literacy workshops, after-school activities, musical performances, exercise classes, teen chess clubs, and driver's education for senior citizens.

Here's some more information about public libraries from the ALA:

*Public-library budgets rose 4.4 percent in 1998, continuing a five-year climb in which total budgets rose 28 percent, materials budgets 31 percent, and salary/personnel budgets 27 percent.

*About 75 percent of all public libraries, including branches, offer public access to the Internet. Ten percent have World Wide Web pages.

*About 80 percent of funding for the nation's nearly 15,000 public libraries comes from local taxes. About 20 percent comes from state funding, and less than 1 percent from federal tax dollars.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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