This year’s National Library Week theme was Libraries = Strong Communities. At MDR we are awed by the immense impact that libraries have in our communities and how their influence goes well beyond library doors.
A Pew Research Center study from 2016 showed that more than 90% of Americans consider the library “very” or “somewhat” important to their community. It would be difficult to name another public institution that gets that much love! Andrew Carnegie, a great endower of libraries, felt the same way: “A library,” he wrote, “outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”
The Library Market Today
There are more than 9,000 public main libraries in the United States, with 44,000 public librarians. Public libraries are developing an innovative set of services for their communities, including online-ready reference services, book clubs, story time, and other general services.
The population of K-12 librarians in the US has reached almost 80,000, and there are nearly 20,000 college librarians. School libraries are playing larger roles in curriculum support, professional development, and technology integration. College libraries are developing innovative new ways to serve traditional, distance, part-time, and lifelong students.
You can learn more about the library market in our Education Catalog.
Services Provided by Libraries
The word “library” derives from the Latin word for “book”. But today, in 2019, libraries offer so much more than just books. Here is an abridged list of services that libraries provide: literacy and citizenship classes, access to the Internet, computer literacy classes, author readings, makerspaces, foreign language classes, genealogy research, job fairs, community bulletin boards, and well as providing WiFi hotspots.
Libraries even extend their services out into the community in a variety of ways including pop-up events at different locations, participating in community events, and pedaling Book Bikes or driving Bookmobiles to reach readers who don’t have a library nearby.
Kids and Students Love Libraries
For some youngsters, a library is the first place they will use a computer. As kids grow older, the library often provides a safe, convenient space for teens to do homework or just hang out together after school. Many libraries also provide homework help for students struggling with their schoolwork. Libraries collaborate with literacy agencies, health care agencies, and early childhood services to lower the rate of kids not prepared for school. Some libraries sponsor after school-clubs for students who are interested in a vast array of topics as varied as anime, acting, and agriculture. Libraries partner with preschools, YMCAs, and family shelters. Storytime in the park has become a popular activity for libraries to offer, engaging young library patrons in an outdoor setting.
Becoming an Informed Citizen
An essential feature of American politics is the notion that all citizens can inform themselves and can make knowledgeable contributions in support of a participatory democracy. The community library provides access to such ideas and information. They make us smarter and aware. Community libraries are free, do not judge, and are a great resource for all who seek to objectively learn and participate in the American discussion, regardless of race, gender, age, or economic position.
Susan Orlean and the Library
One of the best-regarded books of 2018 was Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. In researching this book, she became spellbound by all the services libraries provide, the whir of activity and buzz of exploration in a supposedly quiet place, and the quintessential role the library plays in a community. Perhaps her words will inspire you to participate in Take Action for Libraries Day on April 11, or to pay your local library a visit!
“Our visits to the library were never long enough for me. The place was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye. Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me; in the library I could have anything I wanted.” – Susan Orlean
Below is a list of events that were celebrated during National Library Week. Note that April 10th was Library Giving Day, a fundraising event for donating to libraries. It’s never too late to give back to the soul of your community that has given so much.
Murphy, J. (2019, April 18). The Impact of Libraries on the School Community. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://mdreducation.com/2019/04/08/libraries-school-community/.