Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 13, 2009

Show your local library love

Libraries are popular places during recessions. Anyone who’s worried about whether or not they’ll be employed next week, next month or next year — and that description applies to a lot of us these days –is trying to save money. That’s where libraries come in.

It’s hard to justify spending money buying books or movies — or even a few bucks on video rental fees — when you can borrow them for free at the library. For many, the cost of computers or Internet service provider fees are out of reach. You can get online for free at your local library.

If you’re looking for work, the library is chock-full of job search resources ranging from books offering resume-writing and interviewing tips to access to online job listings.

It’s a national trend: I’ve read stories from across the country demonstrating this phenomenon. From Milford, Massachusetts, to Madison, Wisconsin, from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Boise, Idaho, libraries are reporting sharp increases in usage due to the recession

Here in South County, Morgan Hill Community Librarian Rosanne Macek reports that in October and November 2008, usage was up 8 percent over the same period in 2007. The number of visitors was also up 8 percent.

Keep in mind that Morgan Hill has a new library that opened in July 2007, and new libraries are associated with increased usage. If Morgan Hill could compare usage for a facility that had been open for several years instead of a brand-new facility, it’s likely the increase would be even greater. In addition, Morgan Hill reference librarians report a spike in the number of people needing job search resources.

Across the Santa Clara County Library system — which includes some quite wealthy communities — library usage is up 10 percent.

Of course, while libraries are free to users, they’re not free to provide. Libraries require facilities, materials and staff. The deeper the recession, the greater the pressure on government budgets to cut costs at the same time that residents are using their libraries more.

I’ve written — and still believe — that libraries are the best bargain in government. That’s why I couple my advocacy for public support for libraries with advocacy for private support by like-minded community members.

In Gilroy, like-minded community members recently volunteered their time, money and energy to campaign successfully for a library bond that will fund a much-needed new facility.

In Morgan Hill, I just ended a term as president of the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library, which raises money for materials and programs that the county budget doesn’t cover. Now, I’m working with Emily Shem-Tov and the Morgan Hill Community Foundation to establish a foundation to help support the long-term operating and capital needs of the library.

Emily and I are co-founders of Silicon Valley Puzzle Day, a fun event that benefits the Morgan Hill Library. This is the third year for the sudoku and crossword puzzle tournament that also features workshops led by puzzle experts.

It’s grown so much that we’ve expanded it to two days. Saturday, Feb. 7, features puzzle-themed workshops. They’re free to attend and are held in the Morgan Hill Library’s program room.

On Sunday, we take over the entire library for crossword puzzle and sudoku tournaments. We use unpublished New York Times crossword puzzles provided by Will Shortz and Sudoku world champion Thomas Snyder custom designs our sudoku puzzles. In addition, this year, we’ve added one-round bonus tournaments featuring killer sudoku and cryptic crosswords.

Also new: On Saturday night, we’re hosting a fundraising party for the Morgan Hill Library Foundation. Tickets are $40 and proceeds will benefit the foundation. We’ll have music, food and fun with puzzle enthusiasts and library lovers. Tyler Hinman, four-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion — you’ll recognize him from the movie Wordplay — will be attending and will talk about his experiences.

Speaking of Wordplay, you’re invited a free showing of this fun documentary that inspired us to create Silicon Valley Puzzle Day on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 3 pm at the Morgan Hill Library. It’s a great way to get in the puzzling mood. Gilroyans, if you haven’t yet visited the beautiful new library in Morgan Hill, this is a great opportunity to get a taste of what’s in your future.

Details about all of these events are available online at svpuzzle.org.

Now, more than ever, local libraries are important resources for our communities. If you can, support the Morgan Hill Library by attending one or more of these fun Puzzle Day events.

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