Public libraries are essential, critical elements of American communities. More than a century ago, the steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie contributed part of his fortune to provide public libraries to many communities across the United States for the benefit of our citizenry, effectively establishing a national institution, the free public library.
Shrinking county budgets can make public libraries seem like an easy place to cut, but it is precisely those shrinking budgets that make public libraries’ services and offerings more important than ever. Libraries are part of the solution when a community is struggling economically by offering free access to resources.
Due to state and county directives the Weaverville Library has not reopened yet, but the library does offer curbside service and access to the building for computer use and browsing by appointment. In July, 159 people used the library and another 46 used curbside service. They used the library to take tests because their internet was unreliable, to apply for a replacement driver’s license online, to file for unemployment, to complete the 2020 Census, to photocopy forms for work because everywhere else was too expensive, to check out books for their children, to check out movies to relax, to look for a new job or a new place to live, and to find an audio book to listen to during their commute.
Before the lockdown, the Weaverville Library averaged more than 100 visitors each day. Another 30 used the Hayfork and Trinity Center branches and 40 more logged in to use electronic resources at home.
► 33,800 items circulated last year from the library’s 39,500 books, 6,000 DVDs, and 1,500 audio books;
► The library held 50 story time hours in 2019 with an average of 13 children, plus their parents or caregivers, attending each week;
► 2,235 people used the libraries computers to access the internet and many more used the library’s free Wi-Fi;
► In 2019, 69,400 people visited one of the three Trinity County libraries and 337 new library cards were issued.
Our libraries are much more than storage spaces for books. They offer free educational resources to everyone and can be safe refuges and often a sole source of information for underserved populations. When library spaces are open, they serve as community hubs. The Trinity County Libraries safeguard the future of the community by promoting print and technological literacy, the free expression of ideas, and lifelong learning among its citizens. The loss of the libraries would be a loss to the community.