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Editorial: Darts and laurels

Laurels to the Rowan Public Library system, which ó as a Post story related this week ó has experienced a sharp increase in patrons as the economy has slowed. The library provides a vital community service regardless of the economic situation. In a downtown like this one, however, the library offers a quiet haven where people can either escape into a good book or movie or use the library’s computers and other resources to hunt for a new job or explore new career options. Public funds spent on library resources bear long-lasting dividends and directly benefit any citizen who walks through the library’s doors. That’s a lot of citizens, too. According to the American Library Association’s Web site, Americans visited their libraries nearly 1.3 billion times in the past year, checking out more than 2 billion items, an increase of more than 10 percent in both checked-out items and library visits compared with data from the last economic downturn in 2001.
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Dart to a spate of recent fires that have damaged or destroyed local homes. Frigid weather brings increased fire risks, as people amp up their use of space heaters, fireplaces and furnaces or turn to hazardous improvisations such as using kitchen stoves or kerosene heaters for household heat. When fires do erupt, frigid conditions can hamper rescue efforts and increase the risks for firefighters and other emergency personnel. The state’s fire statistics for the past year ó 24 fatalities, 220 injuries and almost 5,000 structure fires ó underscore the dangers. Stay warm, but follow common safety precautions and don’t put yourself or your family at risk.
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Laurels to signs of a healthier and stronger local community, as detailed in the 2008 Quality of Life Report Card from Healthy Rowan! As the agency notes, it doesn’t give letter grades but attempts to document longer term trends, and this latest report has some good news about declines in youth tobacco use, infant mortality rates among African-Americans and low birth-weight babies. The report card also points to areas where Rowan County continues to lag the state as a whole, such as teen pregnancy rates, the percentage of expectant mothers who don’t receive adequate prenatal care and the overall percentage of children living in poverty. Besides offering a snapshot of the community’s overall health, the report describes ongoing initiatives involving the Health Department and community partners. You can find the latest report and those for previous years on the Health Department’s Web site, which can be accessed through the main county government Web site: www.rowancountync.gov.

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