Story last updated at 4:06 p.m. Thursday, October 24, 2002

New library all about access to knowledge, information
Rick Ladd
Homer should take a measure of pride in its long tradition of supporting the public library, and in our community's efforts to empower residents and visitors to use the library's varied resources.

Community attitudes toward the public library certainly reflect the notion that a library needs to be a changing and dynamic place.

Although severely limited by space, our library provides users many options including online computer services. From a fine collection of books and periodicals to taped materials for the visually impaired, the library is an inspiration.

Library programming, however, is very limited by space and structural design. When new, bestsellers arrive, discarding an older book from the library often allows shelf space for the new arrival.

With 96,500 books circulated among 98,000 Homer Public Library patrons this year, the library is a busy location. Students and adults come through the library door to: use the computers for e-mail, do homework, listen to visiting authors, share a literary experience, locate a good book, find a travel video in preparation for an upcoming vacation, get help on a school project, or simply socialize. As in a school environment where the library or media center must be the focal sharing point, the Homer Public Library is a community cornerstone that enriches minds.

Homer is at a point in time where the city council has identified several needed capital improvement projects. Deep-water dock repair, public washrooms, roads, water, fire station and the animal shelter are a few. The new Homer Public Library is in the same funding basket with a host of other municipal services and needs. Needs must be balanced with available finances and coordinated with a well-developed community plan.

I trust that educating and providing all community members free access to information and knowledge through the library is a widely held priority. Knowledge and literacy contribute to economic growth and diversity.

I remember visiting a beautiful school in China, where bright students appeared to have it all. My eyes were opened, however, when we were escorted into the school's sunny library where book shelves were bookless.

Obviously, this government did not believe or support the basic premise of freedom of information. Our present public library is light years from this extreme example, but we need to rectify the facility's many obsolete shortcomings. The new, proposed Homer Public Library would cost approximately $3.5 million. We are one-third of the way toward this goal. With in-kind support from the city along with the use of presently owned city property for a new library, we may be even closer to our goal.

Given all this, we know that we have a real opportunity to achieve this community goal, and through public and other non-public funding sources, Homer will accomplish and preserve the belief that free people need functional libraries.

Rick Ladd, former West Homer Elementary School principal, was just elected to a second term on the Homer City Council.