| By Gale Staff |
From massive collections like those housed in the U.S. Library of Congress to the small, curated selections at your own community library, libraries are integral to a free society. Albert Einstein himself once concluded—“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
February is National Library Lovers Month, and while we should celebrate our libraries all year round, there is no better time to highlight the important work that libraries do for our communities.
1) Promoting Access to Information
The library is the great equalizer. The American Library Association continuously upholds its mission to provide free access to information and resources for everyone, no matter their income, education, or identity. And it’s about more than borrowing books—in today’s tech-heavy world, librarians ensure patrons can access a computer and connect to digital content, tools, and services that support them at every stage of life.
Libraries also adapt to the needs of the communities around them, whether in a school, a prison, or even an airport. The United States is entrenched in a national discussion regarding equity and access for traditionally underserved populations; yet, while we grapple with solving these glaring inequities, local libraries guide the way.
2) Addressing Equity Statewide
Learners come from all walks of life, including students, faculty, parents, mechanics, businesspeople, skill builders, and much more. Despite their differences, they all share one thing in common—the ability to access free, quality content available through their statewide database program.
The state library can set the tone for equity of access and share essential resources, which is especially important for more rural areas that don’t share the same funding. In fact, when a state library purchases Gale digital resources, participating libraries and schools throughout the state can offer the resources to its patrons and students. This allows librarians to tap into Gale’s extensive, user-friendly databases to assist their community or develop activities to engage their community members.
3) Serving the Community
Libraries are open to everyone, which not only ensures fair access to information and resources but helps create a safe community space. The library’s value to its community is so much more than books. In fact, Findings of the Pew Research Center’s important study Libraries 2016, 66% of Americans say that closing the local public library would have a major impact on their communities and this percentage was higher among some demographic groups including women and college graduates.
Librarians provide services beyond lending books—many plan events for children and families, offer technical support for the elderly, and guide individuals toward social services. Libraries can serve as short-term emergency shelters and food access areas, and the librarians often facilitate those programs. In fact, the National Library of Medicine hosts webinars to train librarians on navigating public resources for mental health, welfare, housing, healthcare, and employment.
Libraries can even graduate adults with programs like Gale Presents: Excel Adult High School, an accredited, online program that helps busy adults finish high school, earn their diplomas, and prepare for their next step.
4) Creating Empathy
Libraries help build empathy within a community. Their collections help patrons of all ages access new and different perspectives through stories, and the library space itself is often used to celebrate cultural events.
Public libraries are a place where everyone is welcome, no matter their background. The very foundation of a library is that of sharing resources and ideas with others, and libraries are comforting and quiet, giving community members a shared sense of safety and belonging.
This February, take some time to support your local library, whether that be by attending library events, making a donation, using their digital resources, or simply thanking your librarian.