Patrons rally behind resilient public libraries
Even as libraries are facing steep cuts, Americans are using them more than ever – in more ways than ever.
(Page 2 of 2)
Some even offer ways for patrons to contribute to collections through reviews, comments, the transcription of materials into digital format, uploading computer programs of their own design, and more.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Depending on the level of community involvement and support, libraries follow the needs of the community. For instance, a branch whose demographic is mostly retirees may not loan out toys or have story hour. But they may offer estate and financial planning, social outings, and computer basics classes.
A branch with a younger demographic may offer activities and materials for children, digital media classes, video games, and a teen lounge.
Libraries are pioneers of the sharing movement. They are a perfect introduction for people who are wary of the whole sharing economy. One can simply say, “It’s like a library, but for cars (or bikes or
Libraries aim to be as valuable to communities as possible, which means that it is up to us, as patrons of the library, to let them know what we’d like to see; let them know what we appreciate, and share interesting ideas and leads with them. They are invested financially, energetically, philosophically, and physically in enriching our communities, regardless of cultural and socioeconomic differences.
Despite branch closures, some drastic budget reductions, and cuts to staffing, there are numerous success stories of communities rallying around their libraries to keep branches open and secure necessary funding. When branch closures were threatened in Oakland, Calif., the community organized “a huge campaign in support of the libraries,” says Raphael. “People said, ‘We’ll take a cut, but not branch closures.’”
New York Public Library patrons, when faced with a $40 million cut to their system, organized and were able to restore $36.7 million to the budget. When the Charles Village branch in Baltimore, Md. was closed, community members took matters into their own hands, and opened the Village Learning Place (VLP) in the unused library space.
A volunteer-driven community library that relies on grants and donations for its running costs, the VLP provides open access to books, classes, various historical and cultural offerings, an after-school program, and more, and is a beloved part of the community.
Libraries in general are pioneers of the sharing movement. Long before organizations were “going green,” libraries were there, showing us how it’s done. In fact, libraries are a perfect introduction for people who are wary of the whole sharing economy. One can simply say, “It’s like a library, but for cars (or bikes or tools etc.).”
In general, libraries are working diligently to keep up with, and push ahead of, society’s curve. If we hold on to our nostalgic notions of what libraries once were, we deem them relics of a time gone by. However, if we support libraries through their evolutionary process, they remain vital community resources and hubs; unwavering providers of information to all, whatever form that information may take.
“Public libraries are so important in communities because they’re open access to unfettered information of all kinds,” says Raphael. “An informed citizenry is what makes a democracy work,” she continues. “When so much of our economy is driven by information, libraries level the playing field and provide open access to knowledge in its broadest sense.”
• Cat Johnson is a freelance writer living in Santa Cruz, Ca. She contributes regularly to Shareable.net, where this article first appeared.
• Sign-up to receive a weekly selection of practical and inspiring Change Agent articles by clicking here.