Recently, I was asked, “What is the value of your library card?”
I began working in libraries when I was 4. My grandmother ran a little lending library in a Market Basket and she took me to work to get me out of my mother’s hair. Seventy-five years later I am working as Chair of the Sonoma County Library Commission. So, “What does my library card mean to me?”
The first library was established over 5,000 years ago – different, but still here. How does anything exist for 5,000 years and survive? Being willing to learn what is needed and evolve to satisfy that need.
In fact, libraries predate books. Initially, clay tablets were utilized, with writing in cuneiform about business and trade, then stored in a common building or room. Transmitting information evolved into other scripts - hieroglyphics on stone and papyrus, the Phoenician alphabet from which evolved Greek and Roman script on parchment, and our own writing of today, preserved on paper or in digital form – all still housed in special rooms or buildings to be accessed as needed.
Changes in topics also occurred as time passed. Business and trade were first, moving into military successes and failures, biographies and important papers of pharaohs and caliphs, intrigues and revolts, and religious concepts, ideas, philosophies, sacred manuscripts, disagreements and conflicts.
Even more important, access to these writings spread among the people as well, beginning with business leaders, accountants and clerks, followed by royal households and their retinues, priests and novices, educators and students, the upper class and, finally, to everybody as reading and writing became the norm.
With increased access available to everyone, libraries began to house a multitude of intellectual topics, including fiction and a variety of forms found today such as CDs, DVDs and books, as well as a multitude of pathways to digital formats, all information impacting personal lives.
So the question is: What is the value of my library card, any library card in our world today?
The answer: Access to information of all kinds!
Everyone has free access to the library and everything that it holds. Your library card opens new opportunities to explore different places and cultures, new people and ideas.
The library card is giving me, the patron, access to computers, tablets, and WiFi hotspots. I can apply for a job, write a paper, file taxes, learn how to fix something, relax and have fun with a good book or computer game - all with my library card. I can go to the nearest branch, do it from home, or travel.
Library cards enable us to reach out into the world to find books, DVDs, research materials, etc. that our local library does not have in its collections through agreements with surrounding systems, interlibrary loans, and Link+.
My library card gives me access to Discover & Go, its 38 museums and cultural institutions such as the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, or local treasures like the Charles M. Schulz and Pacific Coast Air Museums.
Plus, you have those everyday superheroes, librarians and their combined extensive knowledge. You have a question? They can help you find the answer. There are so many questions over the years I have asked or answered standing there as a patron or working in a library myself.
And, today, all this is done with no fines. We provide an average of $500 to $1,000 in value to each end every library patron, all for free.
Libraries have evolved into valuable community and personal assets. With your library card you can keep using the library, reading, learning, reaching out into and exploring the world.
September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, so if you don’t yet have a card, join 53 percent of Sonoma County residents who know that a library card is your best investment in yourself.
Reece Foxen is a Cloverdale resident and the Chair of the Sonoma County Library Commission