My posts on this blog are usually lighthearted and fun, having something to do with books, writing, or how much I love the library. And this is true. I do ❤ the library.
But today, my post is a little more serious, a little more “let’s be real.” Bear with me, and you’ll see what I mean.
Yesterday the White House released its budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, and the Library World was rocked; Donald Trump has proposed the complete and total elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The IMLS provides more than $183 million dollars in funding to libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act, and 42 million more dollars in funding to public museums and archives. The justification for this proposed elimination is that it’s not a core concern of the government.
So, what’s the problem?
The withholding federal support for libraries and museums means withholding necessary services from people; it means restricting access to free and unbiased information; it means defunding literacy programs for those with the greatest need. All things that create a strong, enabled, and informed population.
So, why does this matter?
Libraries are essential now, more than ever.
Really? I keep hearing that libraries are going to be obsolete in ten years.
No, they won’t. Here’s why:
1. Libraries offer FREE educational resources to everyone. Public libraries are one of very few places in the United States that can be considered open resource centers. They offer unrestricted access to educational materials, databases, educational and training programs, safe spaces, and information. Additionally, libraries double as conference centers, tutoring centers, and meeting places. On top of that, librarians are always available to help people – with whatever they need! Need help learning about your new laptop? We got it. Need help proofreading your resume? We got it. Need to learn how to use Facebook? We got it. Need tax forms? We got it. WE GOT IT.
2. Libraries provide essential roles to under served and depressed populations. Every day when the public library opens its doors, it becomes a haven for those with nowhere else to go, a safe space for those who aren’t guaranteed one anywhere else, and a learning center for people with no resources of their own. Not everyone has access to internet at home – or even a computer, for that matter; the library has them for free use. Not everyone has disposable income to spend on books; the library has them for free use. Not everyone can afford to take professional development classes, or to attend informational and instructional programs; the library offers them for free.
3. Libraries are good for business. Yes, they foster community partnerships and engagement, and help support community endeavors, but they are also good for the local economy. When people need help looking for jobs, writing resumes, or filling out job applications, they come to the library, because they know they will receive quality help without judgment. It naturally follows that these individuals will become working, contributing members of the community. Additionally, many libraries enjoy a reciprocal relationship with local businesses; in exchange for support for resources and programs, libraries often offer advertisement and patronage to local businesses.
4. Libraries promote the importance of reliable information. Libraries house collections of learning, information, history, and truth – four things that are becoming increasingly important, and increasingly under attack. In an age where truth is relative, libraries provide an open path to the facts to whoever is interested in learning. By offering this unbiased and unrestricted access to information, libraries champion equality and truth, and defend against the spread of propaganda and misinformation.
5. Libraries preserve history. Often, libraries are entrusted with the history of entire towns. With the rising popularity of the studies of genealogies and family histories, the demand for local archives, birth and death records, cemetery records, military records, and property records are in constant demand. Libraries have hard copies of many of these things, and often hold subscriptions to online programs and databases that allow library users to find the information they’re looking for.
6. Libraries are at the heart of the community. Libraries are like one-stop-shopping. They offer entertainment, education, resources, and information all in one place. Parents and caregivers with kids of ANY age can trust the library has programming that will be safe, fun, and valuable to their children; adults can take part in enriching programs geared toward their own interests; local schools can be confident that the library will support their efforts to provide students with as many resources as possible; young adults can take advantage of jobs training programs; and readers of any age can enjoy materials of all kinds in multiple formats, often recommended by librarians who care enough to talk to their patrons and learn what kinds of things they’re interested in.
All this to say…?
In May of this year, our library celebrates its centennial anniversary. That is something we are immensely proud of. We are SO honored to have been a part of the Belding community for so long, and hope that we can continue to serve the community for another hundred years. But in order to do that, we need people who share our belief that the library is important, that the library is valuable, and that the library is worth fighting for.