Ask any librarian, and I'm quite sure he, or she, will tell you that modern libraries are unvervalued in communitites...and underutilized, too. Not so long ago, libraries were not only the educational hub for both adults and children, they were often the town's culteral center, as well. Travel films, documentaries, guest lecturers...all were available for free, or very little cost, to the patrons of the local library. Libraries were a respite from the noise and busyness of the workaday world. The library was a place of quiet and respect for all those who entered. And guess what? They still are all these things...and more!
In my usual fashion, I decided to do a little research on the libraries of today. I found a wealth of compelling reasons why libraries are still important and why they need to be valued and supported in the communities they serve. I've selected what I believe are the top ten reasons why. See if you agree.
1. Libraries help to revitalize struggling or depressed neighborhoods and downtowns. Libraries can, and should, serve as hubs for the neighborhoods and communites they serve. 2. Libraries are important partners in sustainability. LIbraries are major players in creating livable, environmentally-friendly cities and towns. 3. Libraries'special collections grow out of specific community needs. Many libraries these days offer more than than books and periodicals. they are becoming a library of "things"; everything from cake pans, to fishing rods, to bicycles can be borrowed for little or no cost. This is still a relatively new concept, but one that I hope more and more community libraries will adopt and see the value in supporting. And, tying into this, is a libraries' special collection of books, historical documents. artifacts, and oral historie that pertain to the specific town, or geographical locale, where the library is located. Libraries, for many years, have been "in charge' of preserving the local history for future generations. 4. Libraries are places where people come to know themselves and their communities. Humans often go to the library in search of imformation, mostly, but often end up finding each other. So many times a child, or even an adult, will enter the library in search of information for a school project or for a newly aquired interest or hobby. Then, they meet the librarian, or town expert, who knows everything about about the subject they're researching. Not only has that child/adult found the information he needed but, I'm willing to bet, has found a new friend, as well. Many life-long friendships have been born over a common interest in something or other. And, often enough, these freinds met at their local library! 5. Libraries help ensure that non-English language speakers see themselves represented in their comminities. Many of the larger libraries are multilingual which allows newcomers and tourists to utilize the treasures found in their library. How wonderful, and welcoming, it must be to walk in to a library and find books in your native language! Too, these same libraries can offer immigrants information about, and ways to connect, with their new communities. English classes are often taught, at no charge, at area libraries. 6. Libraries provide access to nonmainstream points of view and give voice to local artists. Public libraries provide collections and services that represent different points of view and often offer area artists a place to display their work, authors to promote and display their new books, and musicians to upload and distribute their work. 7. Libraries provide opportunities for free classes that encourage art appreciation as well as art participation. Libraries can offer children, and adults, everything from simple crafts to the finest of fine arts. And libraries make art available to everyone, not just those those who can afford it or have the opportunity to visit the world's best museums and galleries. Concerts, guest artists, and gallery exhibitions are often offered at a very nominal charge...making art truly accessible to the masses. 8. Libraries serve as the "people's university." In a time when educational costs are skyrocketing, leaving many of those wanting a higher education in the proverbial dust, many libraries offer scholar-facilited learning opportunities right there in the library. In addition, some libraries offer classes, discussion programs, and even online continuing educational programs. 9. Libraries can offer free tutoring, homework help programs, and summer reading programs that often help bridge the economic divide that impacts a students academic performance. My library, here in Lily pad, offers storybook time for very young froglets that helps them develop a love of books and of learning that lasts a lifetime. And 10. I've saved what I think is the best reason, for last... Libraries offer remote access, making it possible for those who can't get to the library to still have access to the library's educational and cultural offerings. In addition to bookmobiles and databases, many libraries go above and beyond to make their services available to everyone. Several libraries offer a book-by-mail program. These services offer hope, dreams, and inspiration to those who live outside the main community...in rural areas where little is available for the residents living and working there...many of them children with little chance of a better life. These remote services can mean the difference from becoming "just another statistic" to becoming a productive, educated member of society.
So, are libraries just as important today as they were 20, 30, even 50 years ago? You decide. For me, I think libraries are amazing places. I hope you'll join me and, together, we can support them and make sure they're around for many more generations to come.