Libraries Lead: NLW 2018

The 2018 theme for National Library Week (April 8-14) is Libraries Lead.  This is very fitting as libraries have always been at the forefront of movements in the United States.  Whether is be education for all or promoting equalizing technologies, libraries have always taken a lead.Image: National Library Week 2018 Compass

Just looking at recent history, librarians have been leading the battles to combat “fake news,” ensure widespread access of broadband internet, maintain net neutrality, ensure funding for libraries and other cultural institutions, and more.  With the recent highlights in poor educator pay nationwide, the school librarians have been pointing out their distinct lack of budget and other issues affecting students.  And it doesn’t help that the current leadership in the county is thwarting librarians every move by trying to eliminate federal funding for libraries and other cultural institutions (though Congress sides with the librarians as the last two years of budget fights have shown).  And things are not much better in Britain and Canada based on news articles I have read.

Librarians have traditionally led the fight to ensure literacy for all by offering books.  In more recent years, this mandate has expanded to include ensuring internet access and providing learning and enrichment classes for all ages (it’s no longer just storytimes for the youth).  As such, libraries are a valued part of their communities.  When people need help, they go to their library because they know they will find it.  Staff may be able to help directly, and if not, they know who can and are able to refer.  And age, race, gender, ethnicity, etc. matter not as librarians are typically open-minded individuals.  Additionally, libraries are not afraid to partner with other community organizations to promote literacy and/or ensure that needs within their community are being met. As a whole, librarians are valued source of knowledge and leadership in their communities.

Additionally, 2018 is the 60th anniversary of the National Library Week celebrations.  According to the American Library Association website:

In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee’s goals were ambitious.  They ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.”

In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

ALA sums the programs inception up nicely. Every year that followed featured a theme the week was built around and the National Library Week events have expanded.  This helps to promote libraries and their services to all.

Please take the time to visit your local library this week and thank those who serve the community.  They do not get the credit they deserve.  And please share stories of how libraries have led to something of value in your life.


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