Citizenship, Cultural Diversity,
Outreach into the community occurs by networked access to databases of local information and by the expanded special programs sponsored by the library to attract non-users. These programs also reflect the library’s participation in the cultural aspects of the community. The library’s approach is to create partnerships with community organizations. Programs in Hispanic culture, for recent immigrants, for seniors, for African Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic and cultural groups are aimed at bringing people together, celebrating Broward County’s rich diversity, and reasserting the library’s important function as a facilitator and connector within the county and the larger community. In Broward, the library is a nexus for the community. It is the place where citizenship ceremonies are held–not in a court house, not in a federal building, but in the public library. The Broward County Library is bringing people together, and it is helping to revitalize the county and the region by making access to information a key to a new sense of community among its residents.
The importance of SEFLIN to the community is measured in part by what the citizens of southeastern Florida say about it. New residents praise the network for providing crucial community information. One registered user recently thanked SEFLIN for providing her with the means to discuss her illness with others over the Internet. Another woman was able to collect information about breast cancer that led her to a support group and to become a participant in an experimental research project. To her, SEFLIN is “an ally.” Legislators have also thanked the network for putting them in closer communication with their constituents. To one user, someone with extreme allergies who cannot venture into the outside world, SEFLIN has become her only community. An owner of a small business put it well: “I look upon this service as a continuing extension of the current library system.” Another citizen expressed support in terms of a vital public service: “The Free-net is crucial to all of the citizens in South Florida,” she wrote. “If it dies from lack of funding, or limps along with minimal funding, we all lose.” In Broward County, the library and SEFLIN’s Free-net services have become integral parts of the community.