Thursday February 23, 2012
When you walk through the doors of the South Burlington Community Library, the world lies at your fingertips. Daylight pours in from the bank of windows along the north side onto shelves of books, worktables and computer stations, casting a healthy glow onto South Burlington folks who have come to cultivate their curiosity and satisfy their thirst for knowledge.
This is not the library of the past, a place to go simply to find books. It is much more. It is a center for lifelong learning that is treasured by South Burlington community members young and old. On any given day, you might find high school students studying for their next exam or residents browsing the stacks for a juicy work of fiction or a captivating autobiography, or just sitting quietly with a newspaper in the reading room. In the children’s room, Story Time Adventures might be in session, with Children’s Librarian Miss Meg surrounded by an adoring flock of youngsters and their parents. Later that evening, perhaps there’ll be a Vermont Humanities Council discussion group that draws library patrons into stimulating conversation with one another.
All this despite the library’s tight quarters and budget cuts in recent years. Library Director Louise Murphy and her small staff are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the library as an integral part of the community offering informational resources for everyone, nurturing intellectual curiosity and serving as a hub of activity for the enjoyment of learning. Among the list of guiding principles found in the Library’s Five-Year Strategic Plan is the intention “to provide opportunity and encouragement for all persons to educate themselves continuously.” Under Louise Murphy’s leadership, the library has expanded its programs to that end.
The Community Library has embraced the digital age. The library’s website, sbcl.sbschools.net, offers a wide variety of useful links with free entry to library members. Murphy considers this to be “a fantastic, underused resource.” For example, on the Vermont Online Library area of the website one can find, among other things, a resource called “Universal Class.” Courses are available in such subjects as business, alternative medicine, performing arts, psychology, real estate, social work and more. For scholarly research, there is a link to a site called “Academic OneFile,” which contains peer-reviewed, full-text articles from academic journals. If a foreign language interests you, there’s “Powerspeak Languages,” where you can learn Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese or, if English is not your first language, you can learn that too. For those who are job hunting, a site called “Career Transitions” may be just the ticket. It offers a step-by-step approach to job searching, including résumé preparation, aptitude and interest assessment, and educational resource information. There is access to a virtual reference library, a health and wellness resource site, a small business guide, as well as K-12 and high school level resources. Through the library’s website, students can get help with their homework and library members can renew books.
The library provides outreach services. It has a bookmobile that circulates throughout the community during summer months. For those who are homebound, arrangements can be made for book deliveries.
In order to offer up-to-date resources, the collection must be weeded regularly. Due to limited space, weeding is a process that occurs continuously. “This is a librarian’s most odious task,” says Director Louise Murphy. “Shelf space is real estate,” and even though every book is precious, there is a fairly rigorous process to decide which books must go to make room for new ones. The library staff considers what the community wants and needs as well as what materials and services any respectable library should furnish in order to provide a balance of relevant, current and useful offerings.
There are many diverse activities and programs offered by the Community Library. Margaret Shaub, an active patron and a member of the support group, the Friends of the South Burlington Community Library, feels that the library’s programs “appeal to a broad spectrum of the community.” She especially enjoys the Sunday Afternoon Concert Series featuring local and national performers. There are Story Time activities for children, Crafternoons, Brown Bag Lunch discussions, the Lifelong Learning Music Series, the Great Decisions Series highlighting foreign policy topics, plus guest speakers ranging from poets to gardening experts. There is never a dull moment at 540 Dorset Street.
South Burlington resident and Friends member Myke Esposito says that she loves the library. She attends the Brown Bag Lunch discussions and the Sunday Afternoon Concert Series. “I love everything Louise has done since she’s been [the Library Director]; she’s been a big asset to the community. She’s made the library feel like home.” Nevertheless, Myke believes that the library has become overcrowded and needs to expand to provide room for community library events. She and Margaret Shaub both strongly support the idea of a new facility separate from the high school library.
Apparently they are not alone, as evidenced by the recent survey conducted by the Community Library’s Board of Directors. Four hundred twelve residents completed the survey, with results showing that 39 percent of respondents support a stand-alone community library separate from the high school. South Burlington is the third-largest community in Vermont. Its library was established in 1971 in a small room in the high school. Since 1979, the library has been housed in its current location. In 1997, the Blanchette Endowment was established for the primary purpose of setting up a separate community library.
It is hard to say if and when the Community Library will get its own space. At least there is a ray of hope for the immediate future in terms of increased access and assistance. The proposed FY 2013 City budget contains funds to convert two part-time positions to full-time and to increase library hours from 49 to 58 per week. Evening hours would double from two to four per week and weekend hours would increase. The Children’s Librarian would become full-time and children’s programs and outreach activities would increase.
The South Burlington Community Library is a source of enrichment for the whole community. It enables every resident to extend beyond the physical limits of the City into the far reaches of time, space and imagination.
SOURCE: Lois Price, Correspondent