, Salem, MA


February 1, 2013

Our view: Libraries vital to civic life


It’s certainly a lot of money, and we share city officials’ concerns about the expense. The council wisely agreed to advertise the project with the understanding that some or all of the plan could be changed later to lower the cost.

We part ways, though, with those who doubt the importance of libraries.

Councilor Rico Mello said the debate over spending “makes me wonder ... about the future of libraries” at a time when information is available at the click of a mouse.

We say libraries are even more important in the Internet age. The Web offers an unending stream of unfiltered information. Now, more than ever, we need trained individuals to help us sort out fact from fiction, to help us find information we’re looking for, be it on a dusty bookshelf or an obscure website, and to make sense of what we’ve found.

Librarians have done that work for years, and they are doing it now. They are also continuing to find innovative ways to serve their public. Consider Read This! — the engaging blog from staffers at the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers (you can find it at that has about six years’ worth of book reviews and recommendations.

Last year, the Beverly Public Library unveiled its new bookmobile, an effort to serve readers at the Senior Center, the city’s assisted-living facilities and the elementary and middle schools (to the tune of about 66,000 books a year). And the Salem Public Library, which has the largest circulation of any library in the area, has made a concerted effort to reach out to non-English speakers.

There is a lot to be proud of here.

Buildings come and go, and some day, Peabody’s library may need to find a new home. But libraries aren’t buildings. Libraries are the beating hearts of healthy, engaged communities, and they deserve to be treated that way.

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