This is National Library Week. It’s a great time to reflect on how much libraries mean to each and every one of us. Public libraries are the only place where everyone in the U.S. can access information for free … with help from a knowledgeable librarian. School libraries offer a safe and wondrous refuge for many of us. Think of the people who sought books at this former public library in Hamel, Minnesota (at right).
Of course, we’re readers. We can’t imagine life without libraries. And most of can immediately picture a handful of librarians who made a difference in our lives. At school, at church, in our neighborhoods, or the “big library” downtown, we all have stories about the small and large ways libraries have changed our lives. You can look up information on Google or Bing and find a plethora of links to wade your way through, but if you want to zero in on the best resources, ask a librarian. They are relentless in their pursuit of the answers.
Every day brings more examples of threats to libraries’ existence. Take a look at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts which has gotten rid of the 20,000 books in its library in favor of a resource center with 18 Sony readers. The school spent $500,000 to build this resource center, complete with a $12,000 cappuccino machine. Calculate how many books $500,000 would buy or how many librarians’ salaries that amount would pay.
Last night at Chapter & Verse, we heard from a school librarian who is worrying about her job, sadly watching positions like hers erode around the country. Oklahoma’s legislation HB 3029, which Oklahoma’s House of Representatives are considering today, effectively “… suspends several mandates, including … library media expenditures … [and] certification requirements for library media specialists” for two years. The Oklahoma Library Association has been fighting the legislation, cognizant that this will harm emerging readers and students in significant ways. As this librarian pointed out, research shows that schools with certified librarians have higher reading scores. Meanwhile, administrators and school boards feel that certified librarians are non-essential staff.
In Santa Cruz, California, officials want to close the neighborhood libraries in order to save $1.6 million annually. Is this a price we put on our childrens’ literacy?
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Virginia is facing significant budget cuts, asking library supporters for help. There are examples here for ways in which we can help our own libraries.
Library Advocacy Day is June 29, 2010. Representatives from all 50 states will hold a rally in Upper Senate Park on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Library usage has increased by staggering percentages and yet funding everywhere has been cut. If you can’t make it to D.C. on June 29th, find your own way to be an advocate. If you agree that libraries are essential to your life, take an active role in supporting the library in your school, church, or neighborhood. Speak up and be counted!
How has a librarian or library affected your life? And what are you going to do about it?