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Contact: Brittany Lesser

Secretary of State OpEd on Libraries

Tallahassee, Florida –

This OpEd appeared in the The Tampa Tribune on September 24, 2013, and The Ledger on October 1, 2013.

Public libraries have historically been community centers where information can be accessed and resources shared. Most people can remember the time spent in their public library as they browsed the shelves for books to take home.

Today, however, our Florida libraries are not only reading hubs, they are a lifeline.

As Florida secretary of state, it is my duty to serve as the conduit in local communities to ensure that these flagships of learning and information thrive. Too often, libraries become targets of budget cuts; and despite shortened hours and reduced staff, these facilities are expected to serve their communities at the same levels of customer service.

Today, as Florida’s e-government services are significantly increasing, our state’s public libraries bridge the digital divide which still exists in our state by offering free access to the Internet, digital literacy training, and job-seeking resources.

Floridians are turning to their libraries for workforce development training such as resume creation or interviewing skills, e-government support and access to technology services.

Libraries provide a combination of essential services that no other community centers provide. Their staffs are prepared to handle questions and provide resources to adequately assist Floridians with a broad range of activities. In fact, more than 300,000 Americans receive job-seeking assistance at their libraries each day. Public libraries provide resources that can eventually lead to successful careers.

Additionally, libraries serve their area citizens by assessing their needs and are using innovative technologies to prepare for the future. Interesting trends in public libraries include offering digital media labs for youth, opening “maker spaces” where people can use hands on tools to create, and adapting to mobile technology by providing e books and readers. By developing plans for the future, libraries are able to more adequately adjust to the changing tides of technological advances.

Libraries are a trusted and revered institution, which allows them to become civic engagement leaders. The library can serve as a springboard for discussion and innovation within a community.

I urge preservation of our libraries and encourage all involved in making decisions regarding the future of Florida’s public libraries to carefully consider the consequences of cutting library budgets, closing libraries or limiting library hours and to preserve Florida’s libraries when economically possible.

The Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services is dedicated to providing a framework for statewide initiatives for Florida’s public libraries, and I ardently support the efforts of Florida’s public libraries to enhance their services for all citizens of Florida.