National Library Week 2016


Did you know that April 10 to 16, 2016 is National Library Week, a campaign of the American Library Association (ALA) to promote the important contribution our libraries make in our lives, our communities, and our country. And within the week’s celebration, did you know that today, Wednesday April 13 is National Bookmobile Day celebrating the work of librarians who take their services on the road to those without easy access to the library.

This year’s theme is “Libraries Transform”. They even have a contest that involves completing the “Because” statement in the graphic above and submitting it through one of the following ways:

Entries can be posted to Twitter, Instagram, or on the I Love Libraries Facebook page during National Library Week for a chance to win. Entries can be a picture or text.  Creativity is encouraged. Just be sure to include the word “Because” and the hashtag #LibrariesTransform for a chance to win. Entries can also be submitted directly to the Libraries Transform website. The promotion begins Sunday, April 10 at noon CT and ends Saturday, April 16 at noon CT.  

My own answer for our local library is “because our library serves as a community hub and provides critical resources and technology for those of every age.” I wish I could distill that to fewer words, but here is what I have in mind.

Our library is a community hub in a suburban community that did not have one until it was built. When a group of us met to save a local wetland from being turned into an office development, where did we meet? The library. Where do we post information for our church’s community garden or the concert announcements for the community choir I sing with? At the library. In fact, the library hosts a number of meetings, book groups, teen gatherings, and, in the summer, outdoor concerts. Whenever I drive by, the parking lot is always full or nearly full.

The other part of my “because” statement has to do with all the critical resources our library provides, including current state of the art technology as well as information resources one might not be able to access on one’s own. It is still the case that 25 percent of American households still lack internet connections. Computers at our library have high speed access as well as all the basic office software. For others, it is free access to online e-books. For others like myself, it is the ability to reserve books online that I want to read but not own, either from our library system or via inter-library loan. For students, there is a homework help center, and there is a job center for those looking for work or seeking a better job. You can see the list of all the things my library offers at their website.

Of course, libraries, along with families and schools, are great places to encourage the love of reading. From read aloud and summer reading programs to the simple fun of wandering the stacks and the shelves with new releases, there is always the fun of that serendipitous discovery of a book you’d not know about that piques a personal interest. More than once, I’ve gone to the library for one reason, and come away with a new book to read, just because something caught my eye.

This is a good week to stop by your local library. If nothing else, your taxes contribute to its operating budget and you should check out how they are being spent. When I look at our library through this lens, I’m always delighted, as I see the way staff serve the public and all the ways our library enhances our community. Reviewing my property taxes, I see that I contribute $18 a month toward our local library. That’s less than the cost of most new books these days, less than half what I pay for internet service, probably less than I spend at Starbucks in a month. The value to me is not just the personal benefit I receive but also the recognition that it is one place that is providing, not a hand out, but a hand up to those who are trying to make a better life for themselves. The value is how the library makes my community a good place to live.

While you are at the library, take some time to look at who is using the facilities. Notice all the programming that takes place. Talk to a reference librarian about the resources at the library or online that might be helpful to you. Just spend time browsing the books and other media available. And, if you don’t have one, or it is out of date, sign up for a library card. You will be amazed at most libraries with all the things you can do with that little card, many from wherever you are! And, if you have the chance, thank someone at the library for making all this possible. National Library Week is a good time to do that.