In his book “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!,” Dr. Seuss writes: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Reading is fundamental, it is a tool that we use almost our entire lives. Reading helps us imagine and can take us places that we never thought possible.
As we all know, the benefits of reading are numerous and yet it doesn’t seem that enough is done to make the basic tools for reading readily available to everyone. I am of course talking about books. Before I continue, I want to point out that this isn’t a post about print books verses e-books, because in my opinion both are useful and each has specific benefits. I believe that print books are here to stay regardless of e-books and that having both forms allows us more options when it comes to reading. Case in point: Although you wouldn’t think so, it seems that millennials, who grew-up with electronic devices such as e-readers, actually prefer print books even though they regularly use electronics and love social media. So it seems like the trend is going back to print books. I believe that print books and e-books will continue to co-exist.
Whether one prefers print books or e-books, the important thing is that they are available to the general public for free. Having books available to the general public for free is of course one of the benefits of having a library. Other benefits include that libraries often offer community classes in such things as word processing and resume writing; they offer the free use of computers and internet; they offer child and teen programs; and sometimes they even offer adult learning classes and neighborhood outreach. Almost all libraries offer some sort of summer reading program and partner with local schools to offer extended borrowing privileges to students as well as reading days.
David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States and a former director of the New York Public Libraries, wrote that “A literate and empowered citizenry leads to a better trained and educated workforce.” Mr. Ferriero points out how America’s public libraries contribute to the literacy and empowerment of its people through the services that they offer.
Manchester has a decent library system, but its reach is limited by the fact that it isn’t easily accessible to those who do not have access to transportation. Access to library services — as is the case with all too many of the great things offered in the city — is a hindrance to many because of ineffective public transportation. Even with the second library, (the West Side Community Library near West High School), the reach is limited.
The Manchester Library is a great place – and the main library is in a beautiful building that has been made functional while respecting the historical value of the property. The library has done a good job at attempting to reach as many people as possible with their services, but they need help.
I understand that the city cannot go it alone and cover the cost of everything that is proposed – and everything that is needed to make Manchester even better. But with some creative ideas, we can get these things done.
The fact is that the public transportation improvements needed to make places like the library more accessible are years away and their services are needed now. We need to invest in our children – and in this case our adults too – so action needs to be taken.
We would like to see something along the lines of “Little Free Libraries” at multiple locations throughout the city. A little free library is basically a “take a book, return a book” place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. These library boxes would be neighborhood or section-specific so there would be a variety of loaner books available throughout the city.
We would work with the public library to possibly allow borrowed books to be returned to secured sections of the boxes, allowing for greater convenience to the patron. We also envision a community bulletin board attached or near the boxes with space for community events and announcements as well as specific city announcements. The boxes can be placed in high-traffic areas within neighborhoods so that they are easily accessible to everyone.
Our vision is for a variety of box styles, but we prefer larger boxes for the city. (I have seen some book boxes that were actually sheds). Book boxes are a great way for the people in neighborhood to be involved and engaged. The library box could also improve social aspects of a neighborhood by inspiring people to start and participate in discussions and book clubs.
Our second proposal is to bring back the bookmobile concept. For those who are not familiar with this, Manchester used to have a bookmobile that traveled to the elementary schools and encouraged reading by allowing kids to pick or order books from the library’s collection. On-board staff would also help kids sign-up for a library card and also accepted returns of borrowed books. The bookmobile would return the following week with any books that were ordered. The modern bookmobile would serve a similar purpose and offer the same services except that requesting books would be via the current system used by the library. We envision the bookmobile serving both the elementary and junior high schools as well as being at special events, such as neighborhood book days.
Improving access to books, and other library materials, is just another way that we can help make Manchester an even better place to live.
About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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