I appreciate the editorial written by Francisco and Christina Menchaca (“Plan a Brookfield library for the future, not for the past,” One View, Sept. 26). I agree that technology and accessibility are very important parts of a library program, including help for residents who are homebound and disabled. Brookfield Library has taken many efforts to accomplish this.
We have an ongoing program to deliver books and requested materials to homebound residents. Eligible residents can sign up for this program either by e-mail or simply by calling the library. Thanks to the work of Brookfield village hall staff and President Mike Garvey, a Community Development Block Grant will now enable us to install power-assist doors for handicapped access into and throughout the library.
Over the past two years, the library has made significant progress in updating computers and signing on to the Metropolitan Library System’s SWAN program. In the space of less than a year, inter-library loans increased from 2,510 to 6,510. Computer use has grown to the point that in the month of July, the library’s 10 computer work stations were used a total of 4,450 times.
The library has wireless portable lap top computers for check out, which were received from a grant written by Director Kim Litland in 2006. They can be used anywhere in the library (but cannot be taken home). With these improvements and additional printing service options, the library is now able to offer adult education programs on computer training.
However, I have two concerns regarding Mr. and Mrs. Menchaca’s letter. First, they characterize the library’s concern over lack of space with “keeping up with the neighbors.” Secondly, and I believe more importantly, they seem to be saying that a library is only about the books or computer access it contains. A library is more than that, it is a place for people to come together to learn and teach each other.
In the library area set up for adults and students, there are seven tables. This is to serve over 16,500 library card holders. There is no quiet study area, no comfortable seating area for someone looking to enjoy some peaceful reading. There is no room for additional computer work stations that will be needed as more people take advantage of library improvements.
Library use continues to grow, including daily programs attended by 11,500 residents last year. With the interest in these programs, serving everyone from parents with infants to seniors needing information on retirement, lack of meeting space is a very real problem. Staff areas that are already limited are becoming more overcrowded by the additional inter-library loan materials that must be processed daily.
I am concerned, as I am sure are people on both sides of the debate on library expansion, because it is what makes people living next to one another neighbors and members of a community, not just strangers who happen to live in proximity to each other.
A sense of community, however, does not just happen. A strong village needs spaces that bring us together-our parks, our schools, our businesses, our celebrations are all a part of this. Libraries are more than information and technology, as important as that is. They are about a community coming together, serving people of all ages and needs.
I would like to close by thanking all the Brookfield businesses that gave us such overwhelming support for our recent “Taste Of Brookfield At Your Library”. I also want to thank all the library volunteers whose hours of work made the Taste such a success. Finally, I want to thank everyone who attended Friday night, making it a celebration of Brookfield I hope will continue for years to come.
Jonathan Platt is the president of the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees.