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FIRST IN THE STATE and fourth in the nation: Those are high honors, and now our own Central Rappahannock Regional Library deserves a metaphoric bouquet for earning them.
Hennen's American Public Library Rating Index uses federal statistics to evaluate over 9,000 public libraries nationwide on 15 weighted measures, including circulation, funding, staffing, and reference requests. Libraries are divided into 10 groupings, depending on the population of the area the library serves.
The CRRL is in the second group, serving between 250,000 and 500,000 local residents. With seven branches from Westmoreland to Stafford, it is a treasure trove of information.
But why do we need a library when we have the Internet? As handy as the cyber information highway is, nothing replaces books--and magazines, and journals, and audiobooks, and DVDs, and the myriad of other sources the library keeps on hand.
Donna Cote, director of the CRRL, is interested in letting everyone have a shot at that mountain of information. "The thing most important to me is universal access," she says. In addition to manning the seven branches (a new one, in southern Stafford, is on the horizon), her staff works with many local groups, including schools, to broaden contact with residents. The library's Web site, a factor not included in the recent ranking, is a delightful maze of community information and connection points. And creative, area-wide programs, like the 2002 "Everybody's Reading 'Gods and Generals,'" stimulate the practice of reading in lengths longer than bits and bytes and the shared joy of discovery.
Just over 100 years ago, Captain C. Wistar Wallace died and left the city of Fredericksburg $15,000 to establish a library. Who knew that in just a little over a century that seed would sprout into our modern CRRL?
Kudos to the regional library, and to the localities that fund it, and to its donors and patrons as well. You all enrich the community.