Libraries hold their value

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Libraries have come a long way. These public institutions date back millennia, with the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt serving as one of the great lost wonders of the world after its construction in 283 BCE (before the common era that starts with year 1).

According to Ohio State University, the royal library had far more than just literature. It contained shrines and a zoo before burning to the ground several hundred years later.

Alexandria was more than just a place for books, much like modern-day libraries. However, the similarities stop there. Nowadays, one would have a hard time finding hieroglyphics at a library, unless they were performing a Google search.

Times have changed, and libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Even CDs and movies seem archaic to the developments some of our local scenes have undergone.

The Cranston Public Library now loans an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector as a part of the “Cool Tools” program that lets patrons hunt ghosts in their spare time. The Warwick Public Library carries 17 mobile hotspots, as it was forced to purchase more this past summer because the demand for the original seven was so high.

Cranston and Warwick, two of the three most populous cities in the state, each have library cards registered to 44 percent of their residents. Those numbers calculate out to 36,067 cardholders in Warwick and 35,449 in Cranston. Warwick, Cranston and Johnston each have their own distribution systems for e-books as some readers switch from the tangible book to a lighter option.

The statistics and improvements go to show the undeniable value that libraries still hold, even if everything is one click away on your home computer. Sometimes, though, those computers are actually at the libraries. Cranston and Warwick combined have more than 150,000 public computer usages over the last year alone. Cranston, since adding free wireless at its six branches, saw 27,000 wireless usages.

Then there’s its viability to the community as a whole. Warwick hosted 460 children’s programs with nearly 10,000 attendees last year, while Cranston had 1,500 library programs. It also had 455 community events between the Central and William Hall branches.

Individual enjoyment has reached a new level at the library, too. Cranston has five 3-D printers, which is a device very few people are fortunate enough to have at their own home. Warwick has seen hundreds of users at its Idea Studio, according to its website, which offers everything from technological assistance to VHS-to-DVD and vinyl-to-MP3 conversions. Cranston offers similar services as well.

Johnston provides Learning Express and the Ancestry Library to its members. Learning Express provides practice exams for everything from the SAT to the postal service and real estate. Ancestry Library allows interested visitors to dive into genealogical records from the past, spanning the United States and the United Kingdom.

Consider this an endorsement for the library. Get out from behind the computer and go find some resources you can’t find anywhere else; or simply use the library’s computer, because it may contain more information than you could imagine.

Explore these treasure troves of information, because they will contain gems you didn’t expect to find. Whether it’s for the family experience, some alone time to focus or enrolling in a literacy or technology course, libraries serve a multitude of purposes.

There may not be a zoo at the Central Library in Cranston, but there’s plenty more to discover.

The printed word hasn’t lost its way, so get lost in the printed word.

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