October is Ontario Public Library month, a time to reflect upon the value of libraries in the province and in our local community.
In Ontario, public libraries reach 98 per cent of residents. Three out of four Ontarians access their local public Library. Ontario’s public libraries collectively offer over 275,000 programs in a year. For even the smallest of communities in Ontario, the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries estimates for every $1 invested the community derives $4.17 in benefits.
In Prince Edward over 8,000 residents carry library cards. Members are not the only people who enjoy our library system. As a designated hotspot for brochures and maps of the County, our branches direct a sea of visitors over the summer months. The first year the Picton branch participated, a counter installed in my office by the Economic Development Office recorded over 80 000 distinct visits by pinging cell phones between May and September. Last year almost 18, 000 people attended programming at a PEC library. And in the case of the David Frum lecture, we moved to the Regent Theatre with people from Belleville, Kingston, Stirling and beyond attending.
Free libraries in Canada first began in Ontario in 1882 and spread to other provinces in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Andrew Carnegie, benefactor of the Picton library (1907) gifted 125 libraries to Canada, 111 of those were built in Ontario. Libraries have existed for over 5,000 years. Globally today libraries spend something in the order of $23 billion each year for books, journals, audio visual materials and digital content. They are often cited as the only institution that preserves public domain materials. There are over 1 billion registered library users world-wide.
For Ontario Public Library month we decided to depart from the provincial slogan A Visit Will Get You Thinking and simply go with Love Your Library. There are many opinions as to what a library provides – social uplift, materials for the savvy reader and movie watcher, access to technology and information of all sorts … I could go on and on. Sometimes it is something as pedestrian as a dog tag or burn permit that we sell for the County. Sometimes patrons come in the library just to enjoy some down time and peace and quiet to day dream – they don’t want to think! Whatever use you make of your PEC branch our patrons express their love of our system over and over again. During Ontario Public Library week visit one of our six branches between 2-4 p.m. to enjoy refreshments and music to celebrate libraries – not only in Prince Edward but world-wide.
In Bloomfield, the celebration will be dual purpose. The Branch Librarian there, Evelyn Crowe, will be retiring after 23 years of dedicated service. The board and staff of the library would like to invite friends and patrons to drop in for music and refreshments and to wish Evelyn well.
We hope you will take the opportunity presented by Public Library Month to check out a book, join us for a program or simply drop in to enjoy the celebration among friends. “What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything everything else – is the fact that it exists.”- Archibald MacLeish, American Scholar, 1972.