Every year in April, the American Library Association sponsors National Library Week to celebrate “the contributions of our nation’s libraries and library workers and to promote library use and support.” That is this week. Without libraries, access to many things would be harder. Why? Not everyone can afford the services libraries offer without assistance. There are those who cannot afford books. There are those who cannot afford a computer. There are still those who could afford a computer but the area they live lacks high-speed internet access (such as my family while I was in middle school through undergraduate school). And there are rural areas where the library may be the center of the community, the place that hosts the majority of non-school and non-church community programming. Also, libraries subscribe to services that individuals alone could not afford, such as databases or Overdrive, so that all in the community may use them.
When one thinks about it, libraries are often a heart of a community. I hesitate to say “the heart,” since schools are also important as are other features/locations unique to a city or town. Libraries are more than just a place to hold physical books. They provide other resources, such as databases and other digital content. Libraries also host programming to promote literacy, which is especially critical where children are concerned. Libraries have stepped in to provide services to fill gaps in community social services, such as GED preparation or providing healthcare workshops. And when one needs help locating information, librarians are there with the training to help (yes, there is more than just a basic Google search to locating resources, including skills needed to evaluate the resources).
Then there are “special libraries” which fulfill a specific mission, whether it be for a specific population or to house a collection of themed material. Since late summer 2015, I have worked for one of those special libraries. On a regular basis, I hear about how our unique services to the visually and physically disabled affect lives. So many patrons claim that our services enhance their lives by providing what otherwise may have been lost to them. When I mention to people where I work, often they recognize the name of the library and knew someone who received our services. In these cases, they talk about how great it is that we provide reading materials and other services to this specific population. Even this past weekend, a co-worker and I presented about our library at a conference for library science students at our local university and more than one person came up to either us or the conference hosts to talk about how great our library and its services were. Plus the host were ecstatic we were presenting so that these students knew about our services. Personally, one of my great uncles received services back when I was a child (he passed when I was nine). In other words, we are “transforming” lives by providing reading material in alternative formats, such as audio (mainly specially recorded, not commercial audio books), braille, and large print to those who want to read but cannot read standard print. Then we go beyond providing just books to also providing programming services, such as reading programs and books clubs to further enhance lives.
Additionally, while I was substitute teaching in the time leading up to being offered this job I saw an example of how school libraries stepped in to transform lives. With no public library in the area, the school libraries in the rural school district were the only places to check out books. On certain days, the library at one building was open after hours to provide internet access for those who did not have that at home. And without that access, those students would not have been able to complete assignments as the school went to the one-to-one technology and few assignments were completed on paper anymore.
While these are but two examples of how libraries transform lives, there are many more examples out there. If libraries have somehow transformed your life, consider adding a comment to explain how. In this era of cutbacks, who knows? Perhaps a legislator will read this post and see how important libraries are and it will help them to support libraries. With all that libraries do, funding should be increased, not decreased, as they are working to transform lives while working with less funding and materials to do just that.
Oh, and if you visit your local or collegiate library this week, thank a librarian for all that they do!