Maine’s public libraries, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, do more than offer diverse book selections, technology and programs for readers of all ages. Our state’s public libraries also serve as significant engines for local and statewide economic development.

An overwhelming majority of Maine’s 264 public libraries offer free Internet access, an invaluable training and job search tool for those to whom it would not otherwise be available. According to the American Library Association, more than 40 percent of public library visits nationwide are for employment-related needs.

We see this daily at the Portland Public Library, as significant numbers of patrons research job openings or access educational resources from our public computers.

Not everything on the Internet is free, so public libraries subscribe to online tools like financial literacy resources and GED practice tests. These tools can often be accessed from one’s home or office with a library card, ensuring that those Mainers who cannot easily visit a library can still improve their chances at moving ahead.

Many public libraries offer tools specifically for small businesses. At the Portland Public Library, for example, we regularly help entrepreneurs with business plan resources, market research and free access to trade journals.

Most municipal funding for libraries covers only infrastructure needs such as staffing and building upkeep. Community support, including funds raised through the Maine Public Library Tax Check Off Program, helps ensure valuable business and job-search resources are available at Maine libraries free of charge to all who need them.

We encourage Mainers to consider a contribution of $5 or more through the Maine Public Library Tax Check Off Program (visit www.maine.gov/revenue or consult your tax adviser for more information).

Taken together, our contributions will help to sustain an important public resource for our entire state.

Stephen Podgajny
executive director, Portland Public Library
Portland