OUR VIEW: Kudos to our public libraries

There are lots of things here in the Bayou Region that make us proud.

We’re a leader in the production of oil and gas.

Our economy is hustling and bustling better than most in the country.

And our happiness level continues to show itself on the faces of our locals. You don’t have to walk around long to hear a “Hi, how are you” or have a door held open for you by a stranger.

But quite possibly the biggest feather in our cap here in the Bayou Region, and maybe the one which should make us proudest, is the quality of our local libraries.

That’s because, as you can read in this issue of The Times, the Terrebonne Parish Library System has been named among 15 finalists for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for the second year in a row.

That’s out of 123,000 libraries nationwide!

And against many libraries with much greater budgets and potential patronage, as you can see by institutions in Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles, California, Phoenix, Arizona, Tulsa, Oklahoma and New York City also being shortlisted within the top 15 American library systems for 2015.

That’s one heck of a statement for our little corner of the American landscape here in Terrebonne Parish.

As impressive of a statement as that is for the 69 full- and part-time employees that pour their heart and soul into the quality of our local learning centers as well as the government structure in place to set it up for success, everyone affiliated would tell you that the quality of the library speaks much more to the community with which it serves.

At a ceremony last week celebrating the library system’s shortlist designation, which was held in the lobby of the Main Branch in Houma, library administrators repeatedly deflected credit away from themselves and placed it on the community.

Although this was an overly selfless move, as obviously the good people of Terrebonne Parish Consolidate Government and the Terrebonne Parish Library system have a whole lot to do with the success of the nine braches, we at The Times have to agree with them that it’s really the patrons of those nine branches that makes the library system as big of a success as it is.

A common phrase, although grossly overused, is appropriate here, and that’s “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.”

Along those same lines, Terrebonne Parish’s public libraries could be as impressive as they are, with all of the knowledge that they hold, but without individuals in Terrebonne Parish thirsting for the knowledge and the services that our institutions provide, it wouldn’t really matter much what’s inside.

In fact, library administrators even bragged at last week’s ceremony about some people from outside the parish line enjoying what Terrebonne has to offer in its various libraries. That fact was confirmed accidentally Monday as one of our reporters spoke to someone from Thibodaux who had just enjoyed what the Main Branch in Houma had to offer.

As noted in our story, we’ll find out in May if it is selected as one of five National Medal winners.

It would be an amazing feat for little old Terrebonne Parish, competing against the likes of several counties and cities with professional sports franchise and major colleges within them, but either way, we, in the Bayou Region, must pat ourselves on the back for helping make our libraries here what they are today.

However it turns out, being shortlisted two years in a row is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be forgotten, and it’s one that rolls itself into many other aspects of a successful society as 880,000 people visited Terrebonne Parish libraries last year.

More library users means a smarter society, which means more money in the coffers of our taxpayers.

More money in the hands of our taxpayers, means better services from our public entities – which in turn, attracts more people to come to the library.

It’s a snowball effect within a never-ending circle of positivity in our area.

So in a nutshell, keep doing what you’re doing. Lots of times, learning is done when you don’t even realize that you’re doing it. You may soak A, B and C like a sponge even though you showed up to learn X, Y and Z.

Those are the opportunities you have here in Terrebonne Parish. And after all, the library is a reflection of the community.