When the ceilings opened up and unleashed torrents of water down through the lower floors of the C.H. Booth Library on January 4, the extent of the damage to the furnishings and infrastructure astonished and completely discouraged the library’s staff and regular patrons. Finally, after months of pulling down walls, pulling out hardware and wires, pulling up carpets, and replacing it all from the floor up, the library doors opened again on March 8 and patrons emerged from their involuntary winter hibernation, reacquainting themselves with this place of cultural wakefulness and hungry for the full menu of programs and services available at The Booth.
A proper celebration of the reopening of the library has been scheduled for Saturday, March 22. And according to a recent survey of the Pew Research Center, there is plenty to celebrate. Last week, Pew officials released a “typology” of Americans and their library use, seeking to shed light on the relationship people have with technology, information resources, and specifically libraries in the United States. The study found that two-thirds of Americans are engaged with their public libraries. Interestingly, people with the greatest economic, social, technological, and cultural resources at hand in their daily lives were more likely, not less likely, “to use and value libraries,” the survey found.
Technology, according to the Pew findings, does not turn people away from libraries, but reinforces the view among those who may not be as dependent on the facilities for information that libraries make communities better. “A key theme in these survey findings is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process in which trusted helpers matter,” said Lee Rainie, a main author of the Pew report. That, in a nutshell, explains why the temporary closure of the Booth Library seemed like such a loss to the community. It is both a social and a trusted place for people of all ages. It is one of Newtown’s most valuable “third” places (not home, not work, but a third place to interact with others).
Take a little time on Saturday to join in the grand reopening celebration at the library. It is, after all, a place where we often end up at critical times: when we have young children, when we are seeking a job, when we need extra help getting answers to key questions important to our lives. We go there for personal reasons, but we always come away with a deeper connection to the community. So stop by at this critical time in the library’s life, if only to show a little appreciation.