The value of libraries

Published 7:10 pm Friday, October 1, 2021

By Billie Joy Langston

During high school, my favorite subjects were history and journalism. I wanted to read everything I could find about historical events, and my voracious reading became the primary driver for my desire to write.

While I was attending Suffolk High School, my mom served as an elementary school librarian in the Suffolk Public School system. She kept me grounded to read, read and read more literature. Early on, Mom had instilled a love of reading and the value of libraries in me that became a lifelong treasure.

In the afternoon after school, I visited Morgan Memorial Library on Bosley Avenue. In fact, I was a regular student patron. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the importance of disciplined, quality study time in a place filled with books and reference materials. It was a comfortable, safe place, with friendly, helpful staff. At the local library, I found an environment conducive to reading, writing, learning and growing that made me feel like I belonged. It was a special place that I valued.

Fast forward 46 years later, I continue to love books and enjoy visits to Morgan Library. After college and a fulfilling professional career, I returned to my hometown as a caregiver for my now-retired mom. One of the things I brought back to Suffolk was a commitment to community and volunteer service. As a current member of the Suffolk Library Advisory Board, I’m thrilled about the current plan to build a new library, from ground up, in downtown Suffolk.

The preliminary design for the new library, to be located at West Washington Street between Lee and South streets, was presented to the City Council on Sept, 15, with accessibility to the city website. The meeting can be viewed at www.suffolkva.us. The projected two-story building will have approximately 37,000 square feet of space, to include, but not limited to, study rooms, quiet reading room, children’s reading room, digital technology and other makerspaces, teen/family/youth areas, adult reading areas, after-hours activities, and more. The new library will continue to offer a vast array of quality programs and services administered by professional and well-trained staff members who are friendly and helpful in providing a one-of-a-kind library experience.

The timing of the new library coincides with current research that supports the value of public libraries. According to an article titled “How Do You Quantify the Value of a Public Library,” MarketWatch, June 2021, a recently published government working paper revealed findings that people who grew up with a love of reading credited the local library as a major contributing factor. In addition, the study results confirmed the significant role of public libraries in serving children and families during the internet and smartphone era. In addition, researchers investigated the impact of capital spending on major renovations and  new buildings. Their efforts resulted in finding that capital investment increased library visits (by 21%), children’s checkouts of items (21%), and children’s attendance at library events (18%). Moreover, the effect of increases on library usage continued for approximately 10 years after thecapital expenditures.

I believe public libraries serve as a vital institution of community life. As learning resource centers, libraries are an extension of school education and training acquired at home. Many libraries are freestanding brick and mortar buildings that showcase and enhance a local area’s capital investment. Most importantly, libraries open the door to a world of information and wonder through storybooks and other resources that expand the minds of children and adults alike to new adventures, knowledge and exploration.

Make the library your lifelong treasure. Get involved now by celebrating National Friends of Library Week, Oct. 17-23. Your support of the new Morgan Memorial Library is greatly appreciated.

For additional information regarding Suffolk Public Libraries, or to obtain a library card, log on to www.SuffolkPublicLibrary.com or call 757-514-7323.

Billie Joy Langston is a current member of the Suffolk Library Advisory Board and a freelance writer of inspirational and positive living literature. Email her at writeitright3@gmail.com.