April 9 through 15 is National Library Week, which was established by the American Association of Libraries in 1958 to recognize the importance of libraries and library workers to the communities they serve.
The public’s ability to access information, especially accurate, fact-based information, has rarely been more important than it is now. The number of websites and blogs that create and disseminate information has increased dramatically in the last few years.
On the other hand, the problem with this vast reservoir of information is the variable quality and factual reliability of the information posted or shared.
That is just one of the reasons that Siuslaw Public Library District Director Meg Spencer believes the need for the services her organization offers has never been greater.
“There has been a lot of talk these days about fake news. Can you trust your sources? The library is the perfect example of a trustworthy source for information and news. We have online resources, books, films, audio books and newspapers and we can point you in the direction of really great information — whether it’s political, medical or whatever subject you are interested in,” Spencer said. “We are an unbiased source of vetted information and that’s more important than ever before.”
Spencer also believes that the main advantage libraries have over computer databases is the human factor.
“Librarians are a thinking search engine. So you can come in and ask us questions and you can be directed to information from numerous reliable sources that you can trust,” she said.
The theme for this year’s National Library Week is “Libraries Transform,” and Spencer points to examples of new or changing programs that the district has begun that recognize the changing demands on the traditional library model.
“We continue to see an amazing increase in the number of folks coming in to use computers. Our wireless access is more important than ever, but also our public computers are really busy,” she said. “On the first and third Tuesdays of every month, we now have computer courses that are available to the public. The first Tuesday is an open lab and people can bring in their phones or tablets or other devices and ask questions about their specific device.”
One of the most important components in the libraries “toolbox” moving forward is the nonprofit Friends of the Siuslaw Public Library District (FOL).
The Friends will be staffing a table in the lobby during the week and members will be sharing with the public the work they are doing to make sure the library is able to meet changing demands.
The FOL also helps to generate revenue that the library depends on to meet unexpected financial shortfalls, to fund special programs and to address emergency situations.
“The FOL is really our grassroots advocacy group. Their mission is to support the library through advocacy and fundraising — and that’s something they do year round,” Spencer stated. “The money they raise helps us in so many ways. They help us support our summer reading program and they allow us to give out books to all the kids that participate in the program.
“And they are helping us to raise money to replace our roof. But the most important thing the friends do is to get the word out about all the amazing services that we have available to the community.”
For information about joining or volunteering at the Siuslaw Public Library, or on becoming a member of the Friends of the Library, call 541-997-3132.