6/28/17

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over many generations.  It is the multi-stranded narrative of the indigenous and the immigrant, the pioneer and the settler, the mover and the follower, the women, the men, and the children who have lived and visited here throughout the years.  PCCLD is pleased to help preserve record of this past for study and review by scholars and investigators both today and for the future. 
The Rawlings Library has a special role in this endeavor with highly qualified professionals working there collaboratively in preserving and organizing access to local primary source materials.  These archival pieces include eyewitness accounts, statistical data, audio and video recordings, writings and speeches, art objects, and more.  They encompass important secondary and tertiary historical resources, too. 
All this is principally collected on the third floor of the Rawlings Library.  We call these our Special Collections.  It is a name given for good reason.  This remarkable area of the Rawlings Library incorporates a singular vault, which serves as a secure room to protect many of the rare and significant documents and artifacts.  The area also has other distinctive furnishings and equipment to better safeguard the precious materials located there.  It should be noted that selected items of this type also are part of more modest holdings located in many of the branch libraries of the district. 
The cultural heritage represented by this collection assures its vitality to researchers and students today and likely so for years to come.  PCCLD cherishs its role in helping to guarantee this legacy is thoughtfully maintained and curated.  We invest heavily to continue to ensure it is so.  This duty is one key part of the library district’s strategic vision of service to our community.  Not only do we employ qualified and well-trained staff dedicated to the stewardship of these materials and maintain apt environmental conditions to better secure their appropriate preservation, but today we also spend funds on modern computer technology critical to this effort.  PCCLD in recent years is working evermore diligently in just this manner.  The results show with new digital copies now available of many high-value historical treasures from our collections.  This provides for both better conservation yet more widely available access via the library district’s website.  A great example of this type work is found here: http://pcclddigitalcollection.contentdm.oclc.org/
It requires dedicated time and expertise for PCCLD to collect and curate our history plus digitize and provide online finding aids for these materials.  More than 25 skilled librarians work throughout the library district.  We also engage professionals who have earned certifications and/or advanced degrees with emphasis in archival management, museum science, genealogy, and more.  This unique group of individuals, along with the aid of able support staff, focus meaningful attention to help preserve and support public access to local materials chronicling our past.  Under the capable leadership of Maria Sanchez-Tucker, who oversees the library district’s special collections and museum services, the list of PCCLD contributions in recent years to local history conservation and promotion efforts is notable.  Charlene Garcia-Simms, who serves as PCCLD’s special collections librarian and genealogy expert, also is key to this effort. 
The achievements are significant.  Here are some important recent examples:
·         Archiving a recent donation of the full collection of the bound editions of the local newspaper of record—today’s Pueblo Chieftain—dating from the middle of the nineteenth century, and digitizing significant portions of this resource in collaboration with the newspaper’s ownership, a local foundation, the Colorado State Library, and History Colorado

  • ·         Promoting PCCLD collection artifacts for statewide recognition (such as the library’s original copy of famous American frontiersman Kit Carson’s Last Will and Testament)
  • ·         Sponsoring scholarship and publication of noteworthy books like Spanish/Mexican Legacy of Latinos in Pueblo County (2012) and Images of America: Pueblo (2017)
  • ·         Commissioning Corazon del Pueblo, an artpiece located on the Rawlings Library second floor visually depicting local latino history in the Mexican Muralist tradition
  • ·         Collecting a gift of the full range of the Colorado Rock Art Association archives
  • ·         Producing community history walls for the Greenhorn Valley Library, the Giodone Library, and the Lucero Library
  • ·         Hosting the Pueblo West history collection at the Pueblo West Library
  • ·         Supporting local programming in partnership with nationally-prominent organizations like the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association, and many more
  • ·         Collaborating with numerous local organizations on this work, which includes, but is not limited to, Colorado State University-Pueblo, the Steelworks Museum of the West, the El Pueblo History Museum, Colorado Humanities, Pueblo Archaelogical & Historical Society, and the Pueblo Heritage Museum. 
PCCLD’s investment in helping to preserve and educate the public about our past is weighty, ongoing, and growing.  The archives and local history efforts here are in good hands now and should continue to grow and improve for the forseeable future. 

4/8/17

EDUCATION AND THE PUBLIC LIBRARY by Jon Walker

A vital part of the public library’s mission is ensuring support for lifelong learning among the individual members of our community.  PCCLD’s education basis is important.  This has never been clearer than now.  In the past year, we further emphasized our commitment to help our local public schools via  ConnectED, an initiative which better guarantees local K-12 students have convenient access to the resources of the public library (for more information on this important project, see www.pueblolibrary.org/connected).  PCCLD’s role in this regard also extends to higher education.  This is important.  Studies show greater levels of formal education attainment correlate to positive outcomes for long-term economic and social success for individuals and the broader prosperity of communities. 
College takes lots of effort to complete and can be expensive.  There are many benefits to college education justifying both of these.  College graduates earn more money on average during their working lives than people with high school diplomas.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that people with bachelor’s degrees earn about one million dollars more over the course of their individual careers than do those whose formal education stops with high school.  Individuals with more advanced college degrees beyond baccalaureate enjoy even better wage outcomes.  Attending college should be viewed as an investment that pays off later in life. 
The economic benefit is one good reason to earn a college degree.  There are others. College graduates experience significantly lower rates of unemployment and poverty than high school graduates, and they are generally healthier, boast increased awareness of social issues, realize greater success in switching jobs and relocating based on lifestyle preferences, and have more time for recreational activities and hobbies.  College graduates also generally realize broader knowledge of world history, geography, and culture plus improvement in critical thinking skills relevant and useful throughout a lifetime.  
Research shows overall education levels parallel a community’s welfare. The upside includes greater tax receipts for the common good, more participation in important public policy matters, and higher levels of employment with better paying jobs.  College-educated parents are more likely to raise children who obtain a college degree as well.  Research indicates college graduates enjoy healthier lifestyles and the children of college graduates often receive a better start in life as they are aware from an early age about the importance of good nutrition and exercise. This in turn improves the general quality of life and life expectancy rates for college graduates and their entire families.
PCCLD seeks to contribute to local higher education efforts.  Our librarians are prepared to assist in numerous ways, whether it is helping individuals select just the right college or major field of study, looking for college financial aid, or plain old studying and preparing for course projects and exams.  We also provide special research resources to assist with all of this and more.  We know this makes a positive difference both for individuals and for society at large. 
In order to further improve upon this, PCCLD recently created formal relationships both with Colorado State University-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College in order to better assist their respective campuses with access to the public library.  Now you will see in the academic libraries on both campuses PCCLD services available to complement the learning experiences there.  We call these projects Library @ the U and Library @ PCC, respectively.
Our community is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.  PCCLD’s mission is more fully accomplished through its support for our local K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.  

2/21/17

NEWSPAPERS AND FAKE NEWS by Jon Walker

I am a librarian.  I spend a lot of time considering and working with information in many of its various forms, such as print, online, video, audio and so on.   This helps at least partly explain my keen interest and love for daily newspapers.  After all, as famed historian Henry Steele Commager noted about the social value of newspapers: “This is what really happened, reported by a free press to a free people.  It is the raw material of history; it is the story of our own times.”
Commager and I are not alone in appreciating newspapers.   Millions of Americans habitually browse their local daily paper.  For me, this also involves regularly perusing local, regional and national publications, like the Pueblo Chieftain,  Denver Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  Such reading meaningfully shapes my views and beliefs about our local community and the world around me.  This no doubt is influenced notably, too, by books and magazines, television, radio and conversations with friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.  But the newspaper has held sway because it is such an affordable and handy means for accessing information about current events of interest and worth.
All this is changing.  Evermore often I now find myself turning to the Internet for news and information.  This includes websites hosted by well-known names such as NPR, BBC and other customary news sources.  It also is Facebook, YouTube, Google and the like.   Online information is readily available and the content is timely, both of which are valuable traits when it comes to news.   The convenience and ubiquity of tablets, smartphones, WiFi and high-speed mobile data service only further encourage foregoing traditional print in favor of online news. 
I am not alone in my changing routine.  The Pew Research Center points out that print newspaper circulation is declining overall in recent years across the country and consumers are increasingly accessing their news online (http://www.journalism.org/2016/06/15/newspapers-fact-sheet/).   Columnist and humorist Dave Barry put it this way: “Newspaper readership is declining like crazy. In fact, there's a good chance that nobody is reading this column.” 
The newspaper as an institution in this country is precious.  This is especially so due to the reporters’ adherence to a well-established code of ethics.  These professional values—independence and impartiality, accountability and the public interest, truth and accuracy—have shaped our reliance upon daily papers as a trusted resource.  Today, these standards are more important than ever as online fake news has become a topic of recent real public concern.
Newspapers are not immune to fake news.  We only need consider yellow journalism controversies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as today’s tabloid journalism.  These infamous approaches to news rely on hyperbole to sensationalize, exaggerate and even sometimes pitch questionable stories based more on fiction than fact in order to rile or unjustly sway public opinion.  These distasteful reporting styles can use overly aggressive and mean-spirited tactics to smear, defame or denigrate.  Importantly, great journalists and prominent newspaper publishers recognize such pitfalls and seriously consider how they report the news.  They thoughtfully adjudge their customary social role as the “fourth estate” with proper emphasis on the independence and truthfulness of the press and its contribution to a functioning democracy.  This lends legitimacy to newspaper reporting.
It also makes what is happening online today important to comprehend.  The capacity in the modern electronic ecosystem to disseminate information, including misinformation, is unprecedented.  This is why fake news is worrying.  There is valid concern that journalistic values, which help assure (but, importantly, do not guarantee) veracity, are lost amongst the online chatter, and valid news becomes indistinguishably mixed with Internet-disseminated half-truths and downright lies.  Fake news websites publish hoaxes and propaganda to drive web traffic inflamed by social media. They intentionally mislead and profit from readers believing the stories to be true when they are not. 
Most reasonable adults turn to trusted experts for guidance on matters of most gravity.   When I am seriously ill, I see a medical doctor.  When my automobile quits running, I consult an automobile mechanic.  When in need of legal counsel, I seek out an attorney.  And so on.  Most of us ask qualified authorities for help and advice when it really counts.  But for our news are we to put our full faith in Facebook “friends” and the links from the first page of Google search results? 
Online purveyors of fake news stories know how to ensure their falsehoods are embedded among the outcomes we first and most readily find online.  What they publish is made to look and read as if it is bona fide when it is not.  This problem has drawn numerous headlines in the wake of last year’s national election and now is more commonly recognized as an issue of public concern.  It is why Internet and information gurus, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are seeking strategies to try to stop fake news and tools like Hoaxy (http://hoaxy.iuni.iu.edu/) are under development now to help resolve this problem.
A complicating factor is the First Amendment of the American Constitution.  It guarantees adults the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally-protected information, even, in most cases, when it is offensive, upsetting or just plain wrong.  This liberty is fundamental to our democracy and rightfully cherished.  It also means that citizens are obligated to take individual responsibility to try to discern what is true from that which is not.   This ability is known as information literacy.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson famously espoused the conviction that a well-informed citizenry is vital to our survival as a free people.  This notion is grounded both in the First Amendment and information literacy.  The latter of these two, information literacy, amounts to the proper exercise of the skills necessary to effectively evaluate information.  This is an individual’s capacity to assess information for qualities such as relevance, authority, suitability, significance, currency, accuracy and merit. 
Reporters have historically played a critical role in delivering reliable news stories.  Our confidence in newspapers in some large measure arises from their championing a body of professional ethics that encourages accurate and honest reporting.  We have learned to trust the newspaper press to provide candid and reliable coverage of things that affect our lives.  As newspapers recede as a predominant medium for news, we must be concerned about the online forum newly filling this role. 
Can we depend upon the Internet to reliably report the news?    The loss of newspapers puts us at risk of losing touch with the journalistic standards that help ensure the news we consume is legitimate.  This is why newspapers matter and why Internet fake news is a weighty issue of public interest.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

12/26/16

REMEMBERING by Jon Walker

In some important manner, libraries are about memory.  They provide access to what humans choose to record for future reference in books, magazines, newspapers, video and film, audiotape and digital files, online and so forth.  As we enter another year, this month’s article is a personal reflection about remembering the past. 
I was traveling from my residence in Colorado in early May last year to visit family and friends in my adopted hometown and former longtime residence of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  While there, I spent time nearby at the Steam Park and Grounds on the occasion of the 50th Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show.   It is a picturesque setting on Black Bear Creek organized by the Oklahoma Steam Threshing & Gas Engine Association.  The area is situated near the heart of the Pawnee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma with lush forests, rocky bluffs and hilly terrain, and the serene waters of a nearby stream.  I find myself on the lookout to catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer or wild turkey driving the winding road to the park.  For me it brings back many pleasant memories of youth.
I am not an engine enthusiast to the extent of so many whom I met on that pleasant afternoon in Pawnee.  But I am the son of an engine fan.  Clayton Walker, my father, lived in Tulsa and the surrounding area nearly all of his life.  He died in 1989 after many years as a hobbyist collecting numerous old oil field engines and other antique mechanical equipment of a variety of types and styles.  He was a petroleum engineer by profession who always seemed happiest while tinkering with engines and other mechanical devices.  My mother—his widow now also long deceased—soon sold or gave to others the engine collection after my dad died.  This included parting ways with a small tractor.
My father designed and built the tractor not long before he passed away.  It was among his last of many hand-built projects.  It was special for him then, and so it is for me now nearly thirty years later.
He wrote an article for The Gas Engine Magazine published in February 1989 (Volume 23, Issue 2) about this “Homemade Mini-Tractor,” as he called it.  In the article he describes designing and building the tractor powered by an heirloom single-cylinder Maytag gasoline motor.  He constructed it from scratch using the self-described “cut and fit method.”  Some parts were custom manufactured such as a brass steering wheel he cast at a local foundry along with some shiny Maytag signs on the hood.  Other parts for the tiny tractor he salvaged from a minibike and a couple of junked motorcycles, a washing machine wringer release, an old Dodge van drive shaft, an auto condenser coil, a riding lawn mower differential, and so on.  He first publically displayed his completed Maytag tractor at an engine show in Republic, Missouri.  But my dad passed away suddenly not long after that exhibition and only two months after his article about the tractor was first published.
I reflected a lot about my father and learned a bit more about him when I recently read what he wrote about his Maytag tractor.  His magazine piece was given to me by the current owners of the mini-tractor, Milford and Bonnie Reagle.  My acquaintance with this cheery couple began while at the engine show in Pawnee.  They are wholehearted antique engine devotees.  I will long hold dear their companionship on that comfortable spring day.  You can imagine my delight when I first encountered them at the Pawnee exhibition along with that miniature Maytag tractor they showed there.  The very same tractor my dad planned and constructed so many years ago.
It was once written that “life can only be understood backwards.”  So it is that we hold dear our remembrances of people, events, and things from earlier in our lives.  My visit to Pawnee on that recent day in May was like that for me.  Just so, as PCCLD moves into this new year, it is important to consider why libraries exist.  Substantially, it is to help us remember.   

10/16/16

INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM AND THE INTERNET by Jon Walker

Fundamental to the public library’s mission is support for free and open access to information for all members of our community.  This role is passed down to us from notable American forebears such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Carnegie.  It also is mandated by law and protected as an inalienable right guaranteed in the United States Constitution. 
It is not unusual for individuals or groups to occasionally try to abridge this right by censoring information in the public library.  In most cases, it is a sincerely concerned person who believes censorship can improve society, protect children, and restore what the censor sees as lost moral values.  But the First Amendment guarantees adults the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally-protected information, even if a censor finds it offensive.
One arena where this can be challenging today is the Internet.   It presents opportunities for more individuals to publish more freely than ever before in the history of humankind.  The availability of so much diverse information to such a wide audience presents great opportunities, but it also can be problematic. 
The use of the Internet at PCCLD is very popular as it is in public libraries throughout the nation.  This service clearly is important to many in our community, but especially so for the socially and economically disadvantaged who have no or only limited Internet access otherwise.  Library professionals refer to this as the digital divide, or economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, and impact of the Internet.  Narrowing the digital divide has been shown to improve literacy, democracy, social mobility, and economic equality and growth.  Some examples of the added value for Internet access include job applications now are frequently online only, increased educational success at all levels and improved career development, vital access to social services and health information, cost-saving advantages of online shopping, locating transportation or safe and affordable housing, connecting with family and friends, assisting on the path to integration and citizenship, and so on.
Disregarding these essential benefits, a community member may occasionally express personal distaste to me with Internet access at the public library because of the easy access to things like hate and sex sites, spam, deceptive marketing and scams, and online stalking.  Such an individual may be displeased with Internet use in the library.  But this is contrary to the law and accepted practice.
The rules around Internet access in public libraries have been helpfully clarified by the courts, and state and federal legislatures.  The United States Supreme Court ruled the Internet deserves the same level of constitutional protection as books, magazines, newspapers, and speakers on a street corner soapbox.  Among pertinent rulings is the case of Reno, Attorney General of the United States et al v. American Civil Liberties Union et al in 1997 when the Supreme Court issued a sweeping reaffirmation of the core First Amendment principles as it pertains to the Internet.  A second landmark case occurred in 2003 in United States v. American Library Association that further defined appropriate Internet use in public libraries.  State and federal legislatures also have passed laws providing additional guidance.  This occurred most prominently on the federal level with the Children’s Internet Protection Act in 2000 and in Colorado in 2004 when the Internet Protection in Public Libraries Act (CRS Article 90, Part 6, 24-90-601 to 606) was signed into law. 
PCCLD practice, and that of nearly every American public library, aligns with the law and the courts.  To the extent possible, PCCLD upholds and affirms the rights of adults to access constitutionally-protected materials.    But PCCLD expressly prohibits use of library equipment to access obscene material or child pornography; and, in the case of minors, material that is “harmful to minors.”  Customers accessing the Internet at our libraries are responsible for complying with library policy and applicable federal and state laws.  When library employees encounter misuse of library Internet computers, they are trained generally to respond first with a warning but with more stringent measures if the person does not comply.  The library district also maintains Internet filtering software on all public-use computers to help ensure compliance.  Yet no filtering software is entirely accurate.  Filters may falsely block material that is appropriate or may fail to block illicit material.  Customers may request we change the Internet filter to restrict access to specific sites or allow access to certain blocked sites.  Adults may also request the filter be temporarily disabled to conduct research or for other lawful purposes. 
Librarians do encourage individuals to be discerning about information in all formats, including the Internet.  Librarians are available to guide an individual’s Internet use to better ensure sufficient analysis and evaluation of online sources that are vetted for appropriateness, accuracy, currency, and authority.  Nevertheless, each adult enjoys the right to use the Internet as she or he sees fit, so long as it does not violate the law or inhibit its use by others.
PCCLD takes seriously its obligation—both ethical and legal—to provide free and equal access to information for all, even when that information may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to some.  The Internet embodies all the potential and the difficulty of this responsibility.  Preserving the rights of unfettered access with the penchant of a few to restrict information is both a noble and a thorny calling.   

8/6/16

IT’S BOOK TIME WITH RONALD MCDONALD by Jon Walker

We know the public library makes a positive difference in our community.  We know this by the large numbers of people who visit our libraries for access to information.  We know it from the individual stories of how the public library changes lives.  I recall one librarian’s story of a young boy who first begins to read in her presence.  I call to mind another’s anecdote of a grandmother whom she helps set up her first email account to stay connected with far away family. 

There are many wonderful experiences that make serving as a librarian worthwhile.  But there are difficulties, too.  The patron who is loud and disruptive.  The vandal who leaves unseemly graffiti in the restroom.  I want to share with you a recent saga.

It is Sunday afternoon.  I have worked at the library six straight days but I am home today spending time with family.  I am messaged on Facebook by a stranger.  The exchange that follows begins with a “quick question” from the stranger.  He is interested to know why Ronald McDonald is appearing at the library.  I thank him for the question and explain the program is acclaimed for encouraging reading and literacy among young people.  It’s Book Time with Ronald McDonald has been a positive experience in libraries coast-to-coast across the USA helping increase enthusiasm for books.

The stranger’s tone changes swiftly.  He sends me a series of messages attacking the ethics and practices of McDonald’s, the public library, and me.  He complains of corporations pushing unhealthy food choices to children.  I respond politely to each communication.  Mostly I share my experience with public-private partnerships in strengthening the library’s ability to further its mission of encouraging reading and literacy.  No avail.  I worry when the stranger becomes menacing: “I might just show up and make some trouble.”  I take precautions by increasing security to ensure the events are safe for children and families who attend.

I am pleased to report a happy ending.  The literacy programs take place without incident.  A series of presentations at five libraries over two days.  More than 400 people show up, but the stranger does not.  Ronald McDonald is entertaining and professional.  The result exceeds even my own lofty expectations for an engaging literacy promotion.  There is no mention of food or eating.  Importantly, hundreds of kids become more excited about reading.

I have never been very active in debates about food or allegations of corporate greed.  Until now.  Like a good librarian, I researched the topic.  There is no doubt that McDonald’s has earned a reputation for less wholesome food over the years.  It is the paragon, perhaps, of the words “fast foods” and the negative connotations these conjure.  This is famously portrayed in the documentary film Super Size Me (2004).  But in the last decade or so McDonald’s has been active in offering healthier food options for its customers.  Eighty percent of their menu now is under 400 calories and includes several salads and fruits.  A more recent counterpoint to Super Size Me is the story of Iowa high school teacher John Cisna who loses nearly sixty pounds in six months and sees his cholesterol level drop significantly while eating an all-McDonald’s diet.  Cisna enlists his students to help him plan a healthy diet consisting solely of food sold by McDonald’s. 

I do not advocate anyone eat exclusively at McDonald’s or any other restaurant.  I do recommend individuals study things themselves and make informed choices.  Which brings me back to the original purpose of the library’s Ronald McDonald program—encouraging young people to read.  Literacy is a critical tool for a healthy and successful lifestyle in our modern world.  Library district employees work hard on this every day, occasionally even in the face of hostility, vandalism, and other unpleasantness. 

7/1/16

The Best Library Possible by Jon Walker

I recently received an email written by a local community member. She expressed concern about the library. In particular, she could not find books of current appeal to her. I am grateful for her interest in the library and will use points from her email to illustrate some important aspects of modern public library service.

Perhaps the single most vital facet of the public library’s mission is to ensure our community enjoys free and broad access to information. In recent years, library resources are evermore online and digital rather than paper in format. This also is the case today for information generally speaking across the United States and around the world. I cite as but one small example the writer’s choice to use email to express her concern about the library rather than a postal letter or some other manner. This ascendency of online information is a primary reason for the library district shifting resources and services. I have both spoken and written about this rather extensively. Here are two relevant citations: “The Ever-Evolving Library” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, page 2, June 2012, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/jun2012newsletter.pdf and “The Fiction Problem” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, pages 1-2, December 2014, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/December%20%202014%20newsletter.pdf.

The writer listed a few exact complaints in her email that can help serve to explain key features of today’s public library. First, she writes that “. . . teachers and other researchers should know that reference material of any sort (except for Special Collections) is no longer available to the public.” Specifically, she reports a shortage of library books on Scotland’s history and the Mexican-American War. The truth is that our local public provides well over two-hundred books on these two topics according to my recent check into available library resources. Many of these now are e-books via library services such as OverDrive, Hoopla, and Freading. Moreover, thorough research via the public library on either of these topics (and almost any other) should include library subscription reference databases specially vetted for their accuracy, currency, and authority. Some recommended sources for Scotland’s history and the Mexican-American War include America's Historical Newspapers (among the most comprehensive databases of full-text newspaper articles dating from 1690), Encyclopedia Britannica (renowned for its expert editorial staff and fact-checking), Gale Virtual Reference Library (includes reference books covering history and many other topics), Heritage Quest, History Reference Center, and World Geography and Culture. Standard library reference resources such as these moved online at least ten years ago or longer. Such digital services have been successful in replacing most of the many volumes of bound paper sources of the past due in large measure to the computer’s powerful capabilities for information storage and retrieval. I recommend using library services like these prior to turning to the consumer Internet via Google, Bing, or the like; which also is available at the public library.

She also writes about “rumors that any book that has not been checked out in six months is removed from the shelf and destroyed. They are not in fact sent to the bookstore to be sold by the Friends of the Library, nor are they offered to other small libraries that might be able to use them.” This is incorrect. Books are removed regularly from the public library collection for a number of reasons, including the information is outdated, the book’s condition is too shabby, or lack of use, among other reasons. But the quickest a book is generally removed due to lack of use is one year. This most often occurs for best-selling fiction where initial public demand might cause the library to procure up to twenty or more copies of a single best seller, but copies are withdrawn as demand shrinks. Withdrawn copies almost always are repurposed in one of the library district’s outreach programs such as Books in the Park or Books a la Cart, or donated to the Friends of the Library for resale via their Books Again bookstore. Rarely do library staff literally throw away a book and, then, normally only when the book’s poor physical condition dictates it. The library district continues to retain almost all noteworthy books and classics. My own recent experience is illustrative. I found in the library’s collection a copy of Soren Kirekgaard’s classic nineteenth century book A Sickness Unto Death (1849) for a library customer who asked for it and the mid-twentieth century American archetypal work of fiction Breakfast of Champions (1973) by Kurt Vonnegut. I also checked out for personal interest the quintessential early twentieth century work The Jungle written by journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair, the 2004 best-selling biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and the 1916 standard by British author John Buchan entitled Greenmantle. The truth is the public library has never offered more books in greater variety to the public than it does today.

Finally, the writer noted this concern: “. . . I would like to know exactly what the library plans to do with that huge space that will be vacated by books.” The total holdings of the library district has never been larger. PCCLD’s collection consisted of 482,786 cataloged volumes as of December 31, 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase compared with one year before. Nonetheless, the public library really is not about books. In fact, libraries predate books. The first libraries, some 4,000 years ago, were places where people accessed information via clay tablets in cuneiform script and papyrus scrolls with hieroglyphics. Of course, books play a key role in today’s libraries, and they likely will continue to be important for years to come. But modern libraries are more than warehouses of books. A public library mainly should be a beautiful, vibrant civic space dedicated for people to gather to study, read, view, create, exchange ideas, and learn both autodidactically and together in groups of all sizes. This aspect of the public library is important for the vibrancy of our community, both today and in the future. It also is a big reason people are flocking to our libraries today. They seek a public place in support of lifelong learning. In the library district’s most recent year of operation (2015), we welcomed more visitors who checked out more library materials, attended more library educational and cultural programs and events, and used more library digital services than ever before in the history of local public library services here (“Reviewing the Past Year,” Pueblo City-County Library News & Events, page 2, http://www.pueblolibrary.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/pdf/newsletters/PCCLD%20%20Feb%202016%20newsletter_1.pdf).

Despite its current overall popularity, I understand the library is not always easy for everyone to navigate successfully on their own. Our librarians train regularly on the current science of information storage and retrieval in all formats, and how to teach library customers in effective library use. I encourage patrons to ask for expert librarian assistance when they are not successful researching on their own.

I appreciate this writer taking time to express her opinions about the library. I offer mine here in the same respectful spirit. While acknowledging that this does not guarantee everyone will be satisfied with their library experience, I believe we are doing great work in providing the best public library service possible for our community.

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over ...