From the Beacon: No library card? Sign up this week

September is National Library Card Sign Up Month and the Beaufort County Library is celebrating with great programs, activities and new library card registration giveaways. But did you know that the library branch down the street is helping to change lives? According to The State of American Libraries, a report from the American Library Association released in April, more Americans than ever are card-carrying library users. U.S. libraries continued to experience a dramatic increase in library card registration in 2008, and according to a late 2008 Harris Poll, 68 percent of American adults have a library card -- an increase of 5 percent since 2006. These survey results indicate that this is the largest number of Americans with library cards since 1990, when the ALA started to measure library card use. 

Libraries provide programs and services for people of all ages and almost all the survey respondents (92 percent) said they view their local library as an important education resource. Seven of 10 agreed that their local library is a pillar of the community (72 percent), a community center (71 percent), a family destination (70 percent) and a cultural center (69 percent). Across the country, public libraries are being recognized as an essential community resource; without them, the landscape of our future might look a lot different than we would hope.

Children are among the heaviest users of public-library resources. Children's materials accounted for 35 percent of all circulation transactions in 2006, and attendance at library-based children's programs was 57.8 million. According to that 2006 household survey by the American Library Association, 44 percent of parents report that they bring their children to the library because it gives them something to do together. Parents can help their children explore new interests and, at the same time, enjoy a family program or pick out a best-seller for themselves. Best of all, family time at the library won't break the bank. The library and its resources are free with a library card.

Unfortunately, increased library usage does not mean increased library funding. The economic recession that began in early 2008 has been a factor in the public's increased use of libraries. Yet in late 2008, the ALA Office for Library Advocacy reported that despite some positive trends, much of the information it had gathered on library funding continued to reflect cuts affecting operating hours, staffing, collection and materials acquisition, programming, services and facility expansion/enhancement.

Beaufort County Library, the public library system in Beaufort County, is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our community. Leveraging existing resources and working closely with local and regional partner organizations such as the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Techincal College of the Lowcountry, Friends of the Library Groups and the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County, is one way new programs that address the community's current needs are able to be created.

Visit and find the library branch nearest you; whether you become a loyal customer, a thoughtful volunteer or a philanthropic supporter, stop by and see for yourself what important work the Beaufort County Library system does each day to bring opportunity and information into the hands of those who need it most. Beaufort County Library staff will be there to welcome you and are ready to help.