Turning a page

It’s great to see public libraries in Lynn and surrounding communities get the attention they deserve and for the dynamic role they play in cities and towns.

With their classical architecture, rows and stacks of books, and enforced silences, libraries get a bad rap as stale, antiquated places frequented by students forced to do homework research or people who need a place indoors to spend the day.

Reality, thankfully, is busy erasing that stereotype. Mayor Thomas M. McGee took time out of a tight schedule last Friday to tour Lynn’s main library and pore through books and enjoy one of the city’s architectural gems.

The tour sends a message that Lynn’s relatively new mayor cares about historic preservation and understands the role libraries play in communities. City financial problems topped McGee’s to-do list this winter but the mayor has committed to look to the future to improve the city.

His predecessors laid off library employees and closed branch libraries to solve budget problems. But previous mayors also invested in repairs and improvements to the North Common Street library and ensured the library received money it needed to modernize online resources.

Municipal officials and residents in neighboring cities and towns are expanding library resources by pushing efforts to reach out to their communities. The Nahant library reading initiative succeeded in making the town library a focal point for community discussions on current issues.

By initially inviting everyone in the community to read a book, local librarians galvanized interest on topics, including cultural discrimination, and followed up the reading invitation with a discussion series involving people familiar with the reading topic.

Peabody and Saugus libraries have expanded their community offerings with multiple events taking place in both centrally-located libraries. Librarians in both communities understand that providing events of interest to a cross section of local residents, from children to seniors, is an effective way to bring people into libraries and renew or supercharge a love for books.

Residents in several communities are building on the resources libraries offer. Swampscott last year became one of more than 50,000 communities nationwide dotted with birdhouse-size “little free libraries” allowing readers to “check out” a book from the mini-library and leave one behind.

Lynnfield is showing its commitment to reading by embarking on a plan to build a new library and Revere and Marblehead have strengthened connections between reading in local schools and libraries.

“Malden Reads” founders organized a community reading effort similar to the one generated in Nahant with the goal of opening dialogue about culture, community and differences and common ground, earning co-founder Anne D’Urso-Rose recognition as Essex Media Group’s Malden Person of the Year.

Libraries still fulfill their traditional providing books and places to read. But they have also branched out to become research locations, online browsing sites and places for youth to gather and focus on productive and healthy ideas.

McGee, D’Urso-Rose and hundreds of other library lovers are proving that an online world won’t kill reading or libraries but make books and reading more vibrant and meaningful to people.

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