Kenny Short worked with Casa Latina this summer as a volunteer teacher coordinator through Literacy Americorps. He talks about how The Seattle Public Library’s resources strengthen and supplement Seattle’s social service network and why our libraries have special relevance for people without technological resources.
Short says: The library is invaluable. If we didn’t have library services there would be a serious lack in educational resources for those who don’t have money or the free time to pursue education on their own. It’s important that the library has those resources, offers them consistently and is open on a regular basis.
Some of the library’s services overlap with the services of other helping organizations but many of those organizations rely on The Seattle Public Library to supplement resources or to offer something that they don’t offer, like computer access. There is overlap in programs, but not redundancy. ESL classes across the city are full and there’s a strong need for them. The library adds onto and expands that service system. In addition, the library offers ESL computer literacy classes. We send students there for added literacy because I don’t think that free program exists anywhere else.
The idea that libraries may become less relevant with technological advances like google and google books is a socio- economically biased belief. There are good statistics on who has educational technology and who doesn’t, and they fall along socioeconomic lines. In general, the less you have the less opportunity you have to access those resources. For the population I work for or for everyday people who don’t have much, the library will continue to be an invaluable resource.
I think the library can and will adapt and change and provide new services and resources. They will continue to serve a need as long as they are organizing and managing new educational technologies and information. One of the things I think public libraries do well is present new technology and information in a format that both young and old, versed and unversed can understand. There will always be a need, especially for poorer folks, to present people with usable, manageable new technologies or information, give them access and knowledge of how to access/use it, without taking too much time, money or prior knowledge. This is the gatekeeping equalizer that the public library offers, in my opinion, and it is truly a worthwhile public service.
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