April 9-15 is National Library Week! Even if you do not need the library, libraries remain an important resource for those in our society who cannot afford books, movies, games, or even the Internet or education. Libraries routinely help individuals complete their school assignments, search for jobs, and learn new skills. They may also help individuals file their taxes, provide opportunities to receive legal advice, promote literacy, provide free tutoring services, or host meetings or panels on issues of local or political concern. Finally, libraries remain one of the few public spaces open to homeless populations so they can stay warm in winter and cool in summer. In short, libraries are far from dead and they are extremely important in ensuring that knowledge can be accessed by everyone–especially those who cannot otherwise afford it.
Too often budget cuts to libraries are proposed by individuals who believe that libraries are outdated. These individuals, of course, are fortunate enough to have enough money that they do not need to borrow materials or use the library computers or Internet. However, even if we are among these fortunate, we should still feel invested in keeping libraries open so they can continue to serve others. Below are some ways you can help without much effort on your part!
Sign up for a library card.
Library directors can cite the number of library card holders to demonstrate to critics why libraries remain relevant and useful. It’s more difficult to argue that your tax dollars are being wasted on a library “no one uses” when you hear that 80% of the town’s inhabitants hold a library card.
Don’t reshelve the materials you look at in the library.
When you reshelve a book instead of placing it on the cart or shelf designated for used items, you may think you are being helpful and cleaning up after yourself–which is very nice! However, the materials you leave out are scanned as “in-house” use and provide statistics for the library on patron use patterns. Workers may need these numbers to demonstrate to critics that the library is indeed being actively patronized.
Check out some materials.
The library also collects data on how many times each item goes out or is renewed. These numbers again can be used to demonstrate that the library is an important resource for the town or area. (You can also keep in mind that this data will determine if a library keeps certain books–if it doesn’t go out for awhile, it will be weeded. And a weeded author may not be an author the library wants to buy again.)
Ask questions at the desk.
If you ask questions of volunteers or workers in the stacks, they may direct you to the desk. Many libraries keep statistics on how many questions they are asked and what types of questions they are. Again, these are used to demonstrate that the librarians are performing necessary duties for the public.
Attend an event.
Libraries write down the numbers of attendees for each event. Once again, the numbers help libraries demonstrate their importance to the community. The library may also put more funding toward events that are popular so if you like a book club or a poetry slam, make sure you go so that you can keep seeing these events offered in the future.
Donate some books.
These may end up on the shelves, in a book sale, or as prizes. No matter what happens, you are still giving back to your community and providing greater access to books for others!
Libraries serve an important function in making education and knowledge accessible to all. And communities that strive towards educational equity are communities that are strong. National Library Week is a great time for us to remember and appreciate the work that libraries do!
What are some other ways we can support libraries and their work?