An investment in our libraries is not only a wise investment in our county’s future it is an investment that insures Westchester’s place as the intellectual capital of New York. There is a return on investment that is more than just financial. It’s about empowering libraries and empowering communities to serve the public good. Take for example the role libraries played during October’s Hurricane Sandy.
Proving that libraries are more than just repositories of books and information, community building at the library could not be more evident than during that storm. Libraries were the “go to” hot spot – literally. They became the community living room and they were packed! Patrons connected and kept warm. They recharged not only their devices, but their spirits, dampened by nature’s sudden disruption of their lives. To meet the demand, Westchester libraries expanded their hours to accommodate patrons and youth librarians developed engaging programs
for students and their parents who found themselves with a long unexpected school break. Entrepreneurs who typically work from home set up shop in the local library, barely missing a beat. And Westchester Library System’s website kept county residents informed of each library’s online status, WiFi availability, and expanded hours.
What is the most significant return on investment in our libraries? Consider this – in a world where knowledge is power, the library’s free access to information, cultural, and educational resources can empower everyone. In Westchester, more than 7 million library visitors a year take advantage of these resources. Some of those visitors attended the nearly 25,000 library sponsored programs –author talks, story- telling, film screenings, art shows, concerts – all free of charge.
The Westchester Library System (WLS) works to empower libraries with effective capacity building tools and services. A strong library system is critical in the delivery of millions of dollars worth of enhanced services for a fraction of the cost of providing these services separately. And while WLS helped Westchester libraries save over $100,000 per year through centrally provided internet access, technology maintenance service, and upgrades – patrons benefited from free use of computers, internet access and WiFi at 44 library sites. (That’s twice as many Starbucks in Westchester – just in case you were wondering.)
With more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies requiring job applications to be completed online – libraries’ free access to the internet levels the job playing field. WLS further strengthens Westchester’s workforce offering programs in career opportunities, job search, resume writing and interviewing, and connections to the county’s One Stop Employment Center in Westchester libraries.
Keep in mind too, that the System’s 500,000 library card holders (about half the total county’s population) benefit from the cost efficient WLS’ delivery system and interlibrary loan service. More than 1 million items are loaned between the county’s libraries each year. This includes DVDs, audio books, e-books, books, and other print materials. Databases, including Morningstar and Lexis Nexis, language learning tools, and skill building programs, are just a few of the myriad of knowledge resources available online 24/7!
Are you still wondering why anyone would still go to the library to do research when you can ‘Google’ it from home? Ask a research librarian (there is one in your library!); Westchester librarians answered 1,531,058 reference last year. While Google can give you 50,000 responses to your inquiry, your librarian can help you find the one answer you need.
The return on investment can be measured not only by financial impact, but also by our collective community pride in opening the door to knowledge, changing a life, promoting quality of life, and insuring Westchester’s place as the intellectual capital of New York.
It’s National Library Week. Thank your local librarian. And take just one minute and join us in the celebration by making an investment in Westchester’s future with a contribution today.