Do you frequent your local library? How do you show support for it? Check out more about ways you can support your local library and why it’s important for your community, whether or not you’re a regular patron.
Last week, I stopped into the library with my younger son. A young mother sat at a small table in the children’s library with an older woman who was helping her learn English. As they studied together, the young woman’s son, about 3 years old, roamed the small children’s library and entertained himself with books, blocks, and toy trains. He never left her sight but also didn’t interfere with her study.
On the surface, some might think libraries have lost their relevancy, especially in middle to upper class communities like mine. Doesn’t everyone just buy books from Amazon and download e-books to their Kindle? This experience, however, reinforced one of the many reasons libraries are still so important to our communities today. Beyond books, libraries are centers for cultural and community connection, learning and growth.
About a year ago, a local entrepreneur used the community room at our library to start his small business. He hosted classes for his customers until he secured a physical location of his own. A friend of ours hosted their daughter’s birthday party in the community room at our local library, something that happens quite often.
Last winter, when we lost power due to a storm for several days, I worked from our library. It was quiet and pleasant, far from loud and distraction-filled (at least for this non-coffee-drinking introvert) coffee shop that would have preferred I pay for something I don’t like to drink. Tons of people pay to work from community co-working spaces. Why don’t they save their money and just meet up at the library?!
Further, library community rooms are much more affordable than many similar spaces at for-profit entities making them available to a larger portion of the population. Libraries host community and educational events. They sponsor programs that encourage children and families to read more and read together. They lend out all sorts of things from nature exploration kits and puzzles to cake pans, e-readers, and wi-fi hotspot devices. Libraries are much more than musty book repositories with dusty card catalogs.
Many libraries host books clubs which offer people of all ages, and especially senior citizens, a chance to get out of the house and connect with others. Research shows that social connection stimulates health and longevity, so having free and unassuming places to gather is important.
Of course the books are a paramount piece of the library. I love the myriad types and genres of books I can offer to my boys or pick up for myself. I could never afford (nor do I want) to buy enough books to ensure my boys and I have an endless supply of good reading material.
Sometimes, I take my boys to the library when I just need a break. The Executive Director of our library has mentioned I’m not the only one who does this. Especially for stay at home parents who spend long days home with their kids, the library is a safe space to let kids roam in the children’s section while relaxing a bit. Parents monitor their children, but it’s a great place to take a breath and let children explore in a self-directed way outside of the house.
My boys love going to the library. They feel so independent requesting assistance from the librarians, choosing their own books, and heading to the counter to check out books by themselves (all while I pretend I’m not there). They love finding quiet corners of the library in which to cuddle up with a book for a few minutes before we head home.
Libraries bring together people from different walks of life. Books help us see the world through others’ eyes and develop empathy for those not like ourselves. Reading expands our capacity for thinking, understanding, and creative problem-solving. Libraries are also one of the few places in our country that serve literally everyone no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other “category” that may apply. Furthermore, libraries offer a fantastic return on their investment ranging from 350% to over 800% in several states in the United States as well as other countries.
Libraries must evolve with the culture. They must be community centers where neighbors can gather and patrons can pursue myriad types of learning, not just through books. Most libraries already recognize this call to action and are pursuing their renewed mission with energy and rigor. But libraries need your support to tackle this transformation.
Some libraries are funded by municipalities and governmental entities. Some libraries run entirely on generous donations. Many libraries survive on a hybrid of revenue sources. No matter who foots the bill, there appears to be a growing and grossly incorrect misconception that libraries have lost their luster, that libraries can simply be replaced by Amazon. Consequently, libraries are losing funding and in some places shutting down entirely.
I don’t know if your local library is thriving, dying or chugging along at a steady pace. With the growing misunderstanding of the role of libraries in our country, however, libraries need you as an advocate. Surely your local library will take your money, but there are many other ways you can help libraries flourish and continue to be the community engines they are intended to be.
Donate To Your Local Library
I suspect every library Executive Director will be more than happy to put your donation to good use. As I mentioned above, your dollars offer an unparalleled return on your investment to your community.
Teach Your Children To Love The Library
I can attest that teaching your children to love the library isn’t complicated, but it does take a bit of consistency. You may need a couple of visits to your library to figure out what spaces you love and how to find the right books. But if you allow your children to explore the space made especially for youngsters, I suspect they will come to love it. Introduce yourself to the librarians. Find out what resources they have other than books. Discover the offerings.
Related Reading: 10+ Ways To Make The Most of Your Local Library
Ask for book recommendations (that’s what librarians are for, after all). Take a copy of their event calendar and find one that suits you and your family, and then show up – it’s probably free! If you don’t find something you like, tell the librarian what events, books or resources you’d like to see. They might show up on the shelf or the calendar next time you stop by.
Tell Your Friends You Use The Library
Many people don’t visit the library because they forget about it or aren’t quite sure how to use it. Maybe they don’t think they have time. Let people in your community know that you find value in it, meet up at the library together with your kids, and share your secrets about why you’re a fan.
Let Your Local Leaders Know You Value Your Library
Many people seem to take the library for granted as something that will always and forever be in the community. They don’t anticipate it ever leaving and, consequently, don’t communicate to local leaders it’s value. Let your local municipal leaders and influential voices in your community know that you value the library or they might assume silence implies it’s not important to anyone.
Library budgets are generally public information. Based on a bit of quick and admittedly unscientific research, a few well-funded libraries with which I’m familiar cost the municipality about $30 per year per capita. Any person who can afford to buy all of their books from Amazon can afford to pay $30 a year in taxes to support their local library. Those who can’t afford $30 per year in a “library tax” need libraries even more and need the rest of us to foot the bill because it’s the right thing to do. Access to books, especially during early childhood, has been shown through extensive research to have a massive impact on lifelong success. Tell your local leaders that your library is worth $30 (or even $10 or $20) per year in taxes.
Connect Local Business Sponsors to Your Library
Local libraries tend to run on paper thin budgets; librarians are resourceful and ensure their funding dollars are put to good use. Often times, libraries have special projects that would benefit from a local business sponsor who gains great publicity for a relatively small investment. Be a matchmaker.
Libraries are engines for so much growth and development in our communities. We need to make sure everyone understands their value. Hopefully, you find a way to support your local library and maybe even be a regular patron. I’m pretty sure you and your family will discover something about it that you love. 🙂