|By Dan Cooper|
EAST LONGMEADOW "We should all take note and learn something from libraries," State Senator Gale Candaras of the 1st Hampden and Hampshire Districts said during a legislative breakfast in the East Longmeadow library held on March 1.
Candaras was one of many guests present to discuss the importance of libraries to the region and the state. Also in attendance for the event were State Representatives Mary Rogeness (R-Longmeadow) and Angelo Puppolo, Jr., (D-Wilbraham).
Susan Peterson, the director of the library, explained that the last time a breakfast was held in the library was shortly after it opened.
"This is an annual event across all four Western Massachusetts counties," Peterson said. "The other area libraries hosting this event include West Springfield, Westfield, Munson, Sunderland, and Sheffield."
Candaras said, "Other places are struggling to accomplish what we have accomplished," referring to the 2004 opening of the East Longmeadow Library.
Candaras then discussed Governor Deval Patrick's recent budget proposal and said, "His concern for Western Massachusetts is still as great as it was in his campaign."
Candaras said his initiative is focused. "Any attorney would be proud of the track Patrick took," she said, referring to Patrick's rise from poverty in Chicago to his successful years as an attorney prior to his election as governor.
Candaras mentioned how libraries proved crucial to Patrick's education.
"If he didn't have a library, he probably wouldn't have had much of anything," Candaras said.
Rogeness mentioned how the library is a beautiful asset to the town. "I learned when I was in Hampden the importance of libraries," Rogeness said. "The library in Hampden was closed for a year, and people could not get the information they needed to get."
After Rogeness, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, the preservation specialist for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), said, "No library can function on their own.
"Libraries from schools, colleges, and cities need to work together to reach equity of library access for everyone," Trinkaus-Randall said. "Libraries are an information center as well," he said. "The MBLC is working on a legislative agenda for regional libraries."
Trinkaus-Randall added that in the last 15 years, 205 libraries in the Commonwealth have been renovated. "There are currently 31 communities awaiting funds for new libraries," he said. "These are great doors of opportunity for the citizens of Massachusetts."
Janeen Resnick, the assistant regional administrator for the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System (WRLS), said her organization serves 101 communities and 310 libraries of all kinds, including college and public libraries.
"WRLS provides support and services for all of the libraries in our region," Resnick said. "We support collections such as the bookmobile, which runs every three months."
Resnick said the delivery for items in the bookmobile has increased to 1.8 million. "We are also beginning to bring high-speed Internet service to 31 libraries that are in need of it," she said.
"I think the idea of shared resources is neat," Carl Sturgis, the director of the Storrs Library in Longmeadow and the representative from Central/Western Massachusetts Resource Sharing (C/W Mars), said. "The regional system and C/W Mars serve to provide people equal access to our services."
Sturgis said in Longmeadow, circulation of library materials is up by two percent, while usage of C/W Mars has increased by 50 percent. "When resources get together, services and needs are provided," he said. "We need technology to provide our services."
Sturgis said libraries are not just a little part of the world. "Libraries can help us grow," he said.
Puppolo said, "I was a strong supporter of the Springfield library, so I know the values of libraries. I pledge my support for the libraries in the region. The governor understands the importance of libraries as well."
Maxine Connor, chair of the East Longmeadow Board of Library Trustees, said, "Libraries are educators from birth through infinity. They are for everyone of all ages and of all walks of life."