Think you don’t need a healthy public library system? Think again.
The recessionary economy of the past few years has put tremendous pressure on public resources that depend upon local taxes. Budgets for public schools, public parks, a variety of community events and other community institutions have been threatened with underfunding or no funding at all.
Of particular concern to us at is the underfunding of our communities’ local libraries.
The Indian Valley Public Library, the North Wales Area Library and the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library are prime examples. Next year, each of these important community institutions will be challenged to find new funding as money from state and local governments is expected to diminish.
The Indian Valley Library faces the additional challenge of making up a $440,000 budget shortfall due to the Souderton Area School District’s decision to end financial support for the library. (The school district, by the way, is among the last in Montgomery County to continue their funding of public libraries, and they should be commended for their long-time support of this vital community resource.)
At a time when the Internet and a variety of electronic devices provide access to all kinds of information without visiting a library, conventional wisdom holds that libraries are not as important today as they used to be. That certainly isn’t the case with Montgomery County’s libraries.
The Indian Valley Library last year served 292,000 people – an average of 800 people every day. Since its move to a revitalized factory in January 2010, the North Wales Library has seen circulation of library materials more than double, and the number of registered patrons has tripled. And, the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library continues to see more children and young families using the library, circulating nearly 27,500 children’s books over the course of the year.
Our libraries are serving the public in new ways, too, providing much more than just books and periodicals. Today you’ll find services such as free computer use and wireless Internet access; audiobooks and e-books; a variety of research databases including health and wellness and career resources; discussion groups, programs, lectures and classes for people of all ages; story times, early literacy games and special programs for preschoolers; public meeting rooms; and much more.
Whether you are just learning to read, a student seeking information for a paper, an adult looking for guidance on a special project, or an unemployed worker seeking job opportunities, the library remains an incredibly valuable public resource.
Without additional funding, the library’s resources may not continue to be available to us. Libraries throughout the region have already cut staffing and curtailed book purchases. The next step for many could be reduced hours, and that’s something our communities cannot afford.
At Univest, our “Committed to Local” initiative includes support for youth education and wellness development – and we believe that our libraries play an integral role in both areas. We encourage members of our communities to join us this summer in supporting our local libraries and recognizing the important role they play in the lives of Montgomery County residents. And we invite you to take advantage of all the resources our libraries offer.
You can do both by bringing school-aged children to a “Teaching Kids to Save” event at the Indian Valley Library on June 16, the North Wales Library on July 24 or the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library on August 7.
Our libraries need you. And, now – more than ever – our communities need a strong, vibrant public library system.
William S. Aichele
Chairman, President and CEO