Humboldt County: Amid Funding Troubles, County Library Struggles With Increased Crime, Drug Use and Homelessness

From Lost Coast Outpost

” Humboldt County’s new top librarian, Vanessa Christman, says public libraries are a microcosm. What does she mean? Well, if you were to visit a library and pick up, say, Merriam-Webster’s English Dictionary you’d see that microcosm means “a little world,” a romantic definition that seems appropriate for a place filled with stories just waiting to be explored.Lots of people around here do just that. The 11 branches of the Humboldt County Public Library — including the main branch in Eureka and smaller ones scattered from Garberville to Trinidad to Hoopa — get 26,000 visits per month and process roughly half a million check-outs per year.But that’s not what Christman meant when she described public libraries as microcosms at an April 24 budget meeting before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. She meant something closer to this definition, from Oxford: microcosm |ˈmīkrəˌkäzəm| a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.Christman sat at a small table facing the supervisors, who looked down from their curved dais. “Public libraries,” she said, “are a well-recognized barometer of the health of a particular community.” More than just a collection of books, they serve as a gathering place, a safe harbor, a microcosm “of what’s going on in a given society.”