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By Mike Scott
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft made a tour or northeast Missouri libraries on Wednesday, making stops in Shelby, Knox, Scotland, Clark, Lewis and Marion Counties.
“The library is the center of the community. It doesn’t matter where your parents were born. It doesn’t matter how much your household earns. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. If they come through the doors, they are welcome,” Ashcroft said at the Sever Library in Kahoka.
Ashcroft was seeking input from library staff across the region on their needs, and what the state could do to help them, including the urgent need for expanded broadband access.
“We have people that come here that have been to DFS, and they’ve been closed. They can’t get any help there, so they come here to get help on how to apply for Medicare, Medicaid, or whatever,” said Cathy James, Library Director. “We try to help.”
Ashcroft discussed the amount of education lost in the past year.
“That’s lost time. Your history doesn’t define you, but it helps to set your envelope. When kids miss a year of school, that is going to degrade what they can become. And it’s in direct opposition to what libraries do,” he said.
“Libraries take potential, and actualize it,” Ashcroft said. “If people want a job, they can fill out applications online, or do their resume there. Maybe there’s a class they want to take, or an adult that wants a certification course for a new skill. That’s what libraries do.”
“If we have school that teach students to think-how to construct and deconstruct an argument, and then you combine that with a library, they can teach themselves for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Ashcroft envisions libraries again becoming a hub in every community.
Missouri has over 360 libraries that serve individuals in many ways. With limited budgets, libraries strive to innovate and update to best serve the needs of the community.
Over the past year, the Missouri State Library – a division of the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, has distributed over $6,000,000 in grants to libraries in the state who have requested project funding. These funds come from ARPA and CARES monies offered through federal programs.
Since taking office in 2017, Ashcroft has worked closely with Missouri’s libraries and the state legislature to improve state funding and improve public libraries.
“You matter,” Ashcroft told the Sever Library Staff. “You’re making a difference in people’s lives.”