Automated renewals can pay off for readers

There are so many ways to read these days.

Many of them don’t even involve a physical book, much less a trip to the local public library. With digital books becoming more and more popular and traditional books available for order online, it’s easy to think that libraries are becoming a relic of the past.

But they are still an important part of our communities across the country and maybe particularly in Appalachia.

For families on a budget, there’s no better option. Books, movies, research opportunities-it’s all free. As are special programs for children, computer classes and Internet use.

Libraries are one of the last few places to teach youth how to independently research a subject without just using the Internet and relying on research already completed.

Along with a dwindling number of book stores, it’s one of the few places where you can see rows of books, touch them, smell them and hold them in your hands.

For families who can’t afford to buy books, much less an e-reader, the libraries open up the world to its members, both young and old. In the pages available there, they can find endless adventure and knowledge. It’s important that everyone have that opportunity, regardless of finances.

That’s why we hope the consortium to which the Washington County Public Library belongs is strongly considering a change in renewal policy recently adopted by the public libraries in Columbus.

Those libraries will automatically renew non-digital items checked out-unless they’re on a waiting list-and essentially eliminate late fees that may discourage patrons from using libraries.

There will be a financial cost to that, total to about $90,000 a year for Washington County’s six branches. But we think making these types of changes will help modernize the libraries and keep them alive for years and decades to come.

It’s vital that the sites not only keep up with trends as far as digital offerings but also become more and more patron-friendly. We want those in our community to keep turning toward our libraries, not away.

Reading is the foundation to all education and knowledge and libraries are such an integral part of that to so many people. Let’s encourage more of these type of forward-thinking changes and keep them thriving.