Across South Louisiana, communities are investing in public libraries, and that should help the region boost its appeal as a great place to work and live.

In Lafayette, library officials have just reopened the Main Library after a $10.5 million renovation, transforming the 1970s building into an appealing modern space. The renovation is part of a $40 million bond issue approved by voters in 2002 that also involved the construction of four new branch libraries.

Baton Rouge officials opened a beautiful new Main Library last year, and they’re preparing to start construction on a new downtown branch.

In May, New Orleans voters overwhelmingly approved a new property tax to raise an additional $8.25 million a year for a library system that was dramatically underfunded. With the new tax, the library will be able to expand hours and purchase more materials for the library’s collection.

In an Internet age, do we still need public libraries? Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, writing recently in The Advocate, answered that question eloquently. “We still want to read, study and communicate in a nondistracting environment,” Harrop told readers. “And we still need what urbanologists call ‘third places’ — that is, public spaces other than work and home. Public libraries are third places, along with cafes and old-fashioned bookstores.”

Libraries still have a vital place at the center of civic life. We’re glad that South Louisiana residents are supporting good libraries. That can only help keep residents here — and attract new ones.