Why Libraries Still Matter
As a young girl, I always enjoyed visiting my local library.
My librarian, Mrs. Ferris, knew me by name and greeted me with a loving smile. She always had recommendations for great books, from beautiful Caldecott Medal picture books to the latest Newberry Award winners. She knew just the right stories that would captivate me for hours, keeping me up well past my bedtime as I read by the light of a flashlight under my covers.
In the days before the internet became a household staple, the library was my go-to source for answers about life’s most pressing questions. Even with nothing but that clunky card catalog of old, Mrs. Ferris could find resources to answer my many questions within minutes of me asking them. I wanted to know everything there was to know about kangaroos? Got it. Pompeii? Easy. The Holocaust? Let’s try reading Number the Stars and go from there.
Once I became an adult, I visited the library only rarely. It wasn’t until my own children became readers that I felt my soul calling me back to that joyful place. I decided to venture out as a family and share with them that joy I felt about the library as a child. I live in a different city now, so Mrs. Ferris is no longer my librarian. But just as I had remembered, our new librarian did greet us with a welcoming smile. As we explored the library that day, I realized just how much I had been missing all of these years. What I discovered is that libraries have evolved with the times, and truly have become important community and cultural centers.
Libraries today are sometimes called the “University of the People.” Yes, they still contain the stacks and stacks of books, DVDs, CDs, and other media. However, nowadays they also offer classes and services that help people improve their job skills and resumes, learn new languages, start small businesses, become American citizens, and so much more. They offer these services at no cost, to anyone and everyone, regardless of status or creed. Their offerings help to level the playing field, by giving all people equal opportunities to expand their minds and improve their lives.
Libraries also engage and build community by offering programs focused on interaction and exploration. These programs provide a safe space for youth and adults from diverse backgrounds, and often give space and voice to those with non-mainstream points of view.
Library programs and events such as author readings and free concerts not only support the arts, but they provide free entertainment for the community, and encourage civil discourse among patrons. Whatever you are interested in, whether it be reading, writing, gaming, coding, robotics, drawing, photography, or something else, you are sure to find a resource waiting for you at your local library.
If it has been a while since you visited, I would encourage you to venture out and explore the opportunities waiting for you at your local library. You may be surprised at what you discover.