New Year’s Day marked another turning point in the post-Katrina story of the New Orleans Public Library. Last May, by a 75 percent majority, voters approved a 2.5 millage increase for the library.
The funds, which become available this year, will serve to both stabilize library funding — after a post-storm millage rollback and the opening of five new, larger replacement libraries in 2012 — and an overall enhancement of programs and services. In the latter case, the most visible example will be an approximately 30 percent increase in library hours of operation.
Libraries will now be open six days a week, and the six largest library locations in the city will be open seven days a week: Algiers Regional, East New Orleans, the Main Library, Norman Mayer (Gentilly), Robert E. Smith (Lakeview) and Milton H. Latter — which is temporarily closed for renovations, but will offer expanded hours when it reopens. This will be the first time the Main Library has offered Sunday hours in over a generation.
For a community where many youngsters struggle to identify letters, numbers and colors by the time they enter school; where school-age students largely lack at-home access to printer and computer resources needed to support classroom instruction; and where many adults have neither access to computers nor the necessary skill set to use them (an essential requirement today to apply for any type of job, among other things), the increased accessibility to resources and the staff instruction/guidance that is available to utilize them will be an invaluable asset to many.
In addition to longer hours, many library users can also expect more books (both in print and electronic formats), CDs, DVDs, online magazines as well as streaming audio/video offerings.
The library also will have increased visibility throughout the community, using newly purchased vans that will bring the library’s presence to day care, recreation and senior centers, community festivals and parades, as well as other locations where it felt a focus on the importance of libraries and literacy is important.
There’s something in today’s library for everyone. I encourage you to visit NOPL either in-person or online (nolalibrary.org). You won’t be disappointed.
Charles M. Brown
executive director, New Orleans Public Library