Dr. Joe Abraham and Joan Wingate are both enthusiastic and tireless supporters of our Lafayette parish library system. They joined us to discuss their mission to instill a love of reading in our children and families and to highlight the importance of citizen support for our library system so that we can continue to provide a free and equal access to documents for all residents, 24 hours a day. seven.
Joe is president of the Lafayette Parish Library Foundation. He is a physician, biological researcher, and award-winning author of Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation.
Joan has held various positions within the Foundation, leading Lafayette Loves Libraries, serving as President, and currently serves on the Library Board of Control, the governing body of Lafayette Parish Libraries.
The foundation supplements taxpayer funding of our libraries by encouraging private donations that provide books and services and fund special programs. Its sister organization, Friends of the Library, has raised $1 million over the past 40 years.
With the library being so in the news, it seemed like a good time to remember the importance of having a viable library system that is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or socio-economic background.
“It is important to raise awareness of the needs of our public library and what we can do to meet them. In 2002, when the Library Levy was passed (to support a 20-year plan to build regional branches and renovate the main branch), we got busy and focused on building new sites. We know we also need to educate the public about the many resources the library has to offer and the importance of reading. We want to be able to offer free and fair access, 24/7, to all our resources. Joan Wingate, photo by Leslie Westbrook of The Advocate.
Lafayette Parish boasts an award-winning library system, having received the coveted James O. Modisette Award for Public Libraries in 2020. It is the highest honor a public library can receive in Louisiana. And its private donors are generous: almost every year, Lafayette is number 1 in private donations made through the Friends of the Library and the Foundation. Yet, if you compare public funding for the Lafayette Parish library to eight other Louisiana metropolitan areas, it ranks dead last.
Library staff members are efficient and effective in what they do to manage its nine branches (four regional, the main library, smaller branches and the bookmobile). On a per capita basis, Lafayette sees more of its resources (books, movies, digital materials, etc.) extracted than any other metro area in the state, even compared to New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
People flock to libraries for all sorts of reasons; they prepare for exams, access the Internet, participate in the various programs offered or reserve free meeting rooms for the public. On the 2022 opening day of the annual Summer Reading Challenge, approximately 1,000 children participated, with pizza served courtesy of the Library Foundation. As Joan says, “The library is truly a haven of peace, welcoming people to learn and discover themselves.
Summer reading programs are designed to encourage students to continue reading during the summer months as a fun and easy way to avoid a decline in reading achievement. With the 2022 Oceans of Possibilities Summer Reading Challengeall participants were encouraged to achieve a personal goal of 600 minutes and a combined community goal of 2,000,000 minutes of reading or activities they participated in from June 1 through July 31. Prizes are awarded for every 600 minutes of reading and one grand prize will be awarded.
The controversies of recent years over the scheduling of displays have placed the library in the middle of a political arena. It has returned to its original mission: a focus on reading and the pleasure of reading. Book displays now highlight mysteries, summer reading selections, and more.
Joe emphasized the library’s goal of creating a community of people who love books. “It’s such an essential part of developing your imagination. With the innovation economy, the only way to be competitive is to generate your own innovative ideas. We want to prepare our local children for the innovation economy so that we can control our own destiny, not depend on outside talent that has to come in.
“As an emergency physician, I learned that I could walk up to six-month-olds, look them in the eye and see if they had been read to. They are engaged, look around. So I started talking to parents about the importance of reading for their children. What would happen to our children, our schools, our universities and our economy if every parent read to their children? And conversely, think about the positive benefits of reducing crime, poverty, drug use, and all kinds of illicit behavior.
We thank Joe and Joan for joining Discover Lafayette to discuss their mission to spread the joy of reading and encourage public support for the Lafayette Public Library!
For more information on all of the Lafayette Public Library offerings, please visit http://lafayettepubliclibrary.org/.