Library, a community gem, according to new director

A community’s library is something to be treasured and nurtured, according to Michael Sawyer, the new director of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System.

Sawyer told the Pine Bluff Rotary Club Tuesday that the main library downtown as well as its four satellite branches in Watson Chapel, White Hall, Redfield and Altheimer are committed to serving the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.

“The library is a community hub where people can gather and meet,” Sawyer said. “Essentially, the library is the crown jewel of the community. When new businesses are looking at a potential city to locate in they look at three things first — schools, infrastructure and libraries.”

“For every tax dollar that is taken in there is a five dollar return to the community,” Sawyer said of libraries.

Sawyer said that the public should be aware of the information services provided by the library.

“For our librarians there is no such thing as a dumb question,” Sawyer said. “Our genealogy section is second to none. We just acquired the 1940 Arkansas Census. Not everything on the Internet is correct. The Internet is only as good as the information that is on there.”

Sawyer warned against society’s rush to do away with paper phone directories.

“Some cities are doing away with their phone directories with the excuse that people can look up what they want on the Internet,” Sawyer said. “That is not true. You usually have to pay a fee to access someone’s phone number if you try to look them up using the Internet.”

“The library is the last front line to make sure that you get the correct information,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said that the library plans to debut an online card catalogue next year.

“Last year we had 150,000 visits to all five of our library locations and 250,000 items were checked out,” Sawyer said.

“Even in hard times you tax dollars pay off at the library where we have books, DVDs, anything you want,” Sawyer said.