It’s that time of the year again: National Library Week. This year’s theme is “Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library.”
Here’s the American Library Association’s official statement for 2015:
Today’s libraries are more than just books. Increasingly, they are places of creativity where people can meet to share a hobby, use a 3D printer, edit a video, or use software to record their own music. Libraries offer access to the tools and technology essential to the economic and cultural lives of their communities.
What have you created with the help of your local library? Did you research or write your book, learn how to make a hand-knitted scarf or culinary creation? Have you used the library’s 3D printer or produced a video? Did the library help you find a new job or get your small business off the ground? Or perhaps the library’s homework help service made a difference in your child’s last report card.
The possibilities really are unlimited.
This year more than any it is important to remember what the library does for its community. Too many have tried to block library funding. Look at what happened in Missouri. First, the state government threatened to withhold approximately $6.6 million meant for libraries and internet access within libraries. The governor even had teenagers who went to speak with him about the issue kicked out of the capitol building. And this was after having the majority of the funds withheld the previous year (read the linked to article for more details). And U.S. House Budget Committee proposed to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS is the institution that administers federal funding support for more than 123,000 libraries in almost every community in the nation. Both propositions would harm libraries and other cultural institutions. Luckily in Missouri, the funds were unexpectedly released, but the debate continues for the next fiscal year. As of now, I have yet to hear an update on the IMLS situation.
The American Libraries supplement released last week contains many reasons why libraries are helpful to their communities. This special issues, entitled “The American Dream Starts @ The Library” is worth taking a look at to see why libraries are both important and provide endless possibilities. There are articles that focus on helping new immigrants; partnerships with stores to expand library services; providing adult literacy programs (otherwise known as GED classes); partnerships with students and teachers; and many more topics along those lines.
As you may discern from this year’s ALA statement, libraries are also more than just books and educational services. Many libraries now offer creative programs. Several academic libraries nearby offer 3-D printing. My undergraduate university’s library offers multimedia studio for video and graphics editing. My graduate university’s main library offered cameras and video cameras to check out to support creating visual media. I have also seen programs advertised at local public libraries for woodcarving classes, children’s craft activities, and NaNoWriMo workshops. One of the libraries out near Kansas City, Mid-Continent I think, offers an Espresso Book Machine for self-publishing books. The St. Louis Public Library Headquarters has a digital makerspace that offers a plethora of digital editing tools, including a recording studio. The Kansas City Public Library offers a business center to help with job seeking and career development. And I remember reading about in my coursework that some libraries offer full creative studios featuring things like sewing machines, embroidery machines, woodworking tools, kilns, and other expensive tools/machines that an individual may not be able to afford. Despite the fact these are tools, not readable media, offered for use, the very fact they are offered freely still harkens back to the reason why public libraries were first established: to give those who may not otherwise be able to afford it the chance to participate in society and become better people for it.
This year ALA is encouraging those who have made items at their library to post photos of the item to social media accounts with the hashtag #librarymade. Read more about that promotion here. Growing up, I recall many crafts made during story times. More recently, I created three exhibits during my graduate assistantship. I also created a book sculpture, pictured below, during my tenure as a circulation clerk.
En short, libraries should not be taken for granted. They fill many roles in the community, whether that library is public, school, or academic. Most do not realize those services would not exist without proper funding. Often that funding is part local, part state, and part federal. And still that is often not enough and grants are applied for to support specific programs offered. For further reminders on why libraries are important, take a look at my post reflecting on last year’s theme “Lives Change @ the Library.” It serves as a reminder on not only how libraries offer programming ans services, but also many hidden benefits of libraries.
So how have libraries helped you? Was there a specific service or program that helped you or that you enjoyed? Have you seen ways your local library has gone above and beyond the traditional programming and role of checking out material to help within the community or offer unique services? Does your local library have a makerspace? If so, have you used it?
Head’s up: For the next three weeks, I’ll be posting book reviews for several novels I have read advanced reader copies of that will come out between April 21 and May 5, 2015. After that, a non-review post.