Jefferson City, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft today encouraged Missouri residents to increase their use of Missouri libraries, which he calls “gateways to opportunity,” during this National Library Week. National Library Week is observed this year April 9 through April 15, with the theme, “Libraries Transform.”

First sponsored in 1958 by the American Library Association, National Library Week is a national observance to promote all types of libraries, including school, public, academic and special libraries.

“Advocating for libraries and encouraging reading are important. Missouri’s 363 tax-supported libraries are truly gateways to opportunity and offer a way for millions of Missourians to educate themselves and their families, start or expand their businesses and use technology to help advance their knowledge or their careers,” Ashcroft said. “Libraries are vital to Missourians across the state.”

Last year, Missouri’s libraries were host to 27.1 million visits, not including 17.6 million virtual library hits. That’s about a half million more visits last year than those made to Missouri State Parks and St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals games.

In some rural areas of the state, the local library is the only public facility that provides broadband access to residents. Having access to fast Internet service can make completing educational projects easier and provides a way to send job applications and resumes quickly.

Missouri libraries provide workforce development opportunities, skills training, summer reading programs for youth and many other educational opportunities in a cost-effective manner. Just $42.88 per capita is spent for public library services and provide state and local governments an excellent return on investment.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with Missouri’s libraries and be an advocate for them. Librarians provide such a valuable service and act as a resource to anyone who seeks information or education,” Ashcroft said. “Celebrating National Library Week with the state’s library group is an honor, and we all recognize the contributions of our state’s library staff and administrators and look forward to celebrating National Library Workers Day on April 11.”