Fresh Ideas: Libraries connect us with opportunity
“You see things and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?'”
– George Bernard Shaw
Two weeks ago, I attended Dr. Toni Neubauer’s presentation at the Carson City Library. Her organization, READ Global (www.read
global.org) establishes libraries in the developing world. For nearly 20 years, this organization has leveraged scarce resources by working “with community members to seed for-profit business enterprises that meet local needs, provide job opportunities and generate sustaining revenues.”
READ Global’s libraries provide toys and games for children, books in the local language, a women’s section and computers. They also offer computer training, information on starting a business and access to micro-credit. Furthermore, each library is linked to a for-profit business to sustain its operation. These diverse businesses include an ambulance service, fishery, printing press, furniture factory, secretarial service and yoga classes. Residents no longer need to leave the village to find work. READ libraries have become community hubs in true public-private partnerships.
Sound familiar? The Carson Nugget Economic Development Project hopes to form just such an alliance. The difference is that the economy it’s trying to develop isn’t in some tiny village in Nepal. It’s right here in Carson City.
Good libraries are important to communities. Every day about 1,000 people visit the Carson City Library. That’s up 20 percent in spite of being open fewer hours. Their 20 computers are in constant use, many with users looking for jobs.
Furthermore, good libraries are linked to higher rates of literacy and higher test scores, according to Dr. Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at University of Southern California. He tells us that, “study after study has confirmed that students who read more … read better, write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies.”
Krashen goes on to cite national and international studies that consistently show higher test scores in places that have better libraries. These results held even when researchers controlled for poverty. That’s significant because 25 percent of U.S. children live in poverty. Access to books matters.
If Carson City hopes to work its way out of this abysmal economy and attract new businesses and jobs, we need to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Nugget project can provide construction jobs now and more diverse high-tech jobs in the future as well as improving the literacy of the whole community. That’s called synergy.
Yes, due diligence is necessary, but for once let’s ride the crest of the wave and not drift behind it in the doldrums. Let’s expand both economic and learning opportunities. Let’s prepare our children and our city for the future. Let’s create a community where businesses and families can learn and grow and prosper. And let’s do it right here in Carson City.
• Lorie Schaefer is a retired teacher.