Many people believe libraries to be a thing of the past due to the digital revolution and the rise of a gadget enamored society. The role of libraries as community centers is often undervalued leading to shrinking budgets and sometimes even closure. However, the increase of technologically mediated life is perhaps the reason why public libraries are important institutions for bringing together communities and providing a safe place in which individuals can gather to interact, learn and explore. Here are a few of the ways in which libraries add value to our communities.
Libraries Help Build Communities
The placement of a library in a struggling or depressed neighborhood can help to revitalize the area – libraries are a great way to bring large numbers of people together and they also create economic opportunities for businesses and organizations. Libraries aren’t just about books and information; they can also provide special collections which have developed from specific community needs. Some libraries, such as the Oakland Public Library, have provided communities with tools after disasters have destroyed a neighborhood which goes to show how locally responsive a community-centered library can be.
Librarians are often the first to recognize local needs because they interact on a daily basis with members of society and understand their communities firsthand. Therefore it is often libraries that bring social needs to the attention of the community and partner with local governments and social agencies to help address these needs. As well as learning the essential skills and knowledge required, aspiring future librarians doing library science masters will also learn how to champion the cultural lives of communities and society.
Libraries Can be Community Centers for Diverse Populations
There are myriad communities across the country that are made up of individuals and families for whom English isn’t their first language and this can sometimes be a barrier in daily life. However, the majority of public libraries help integrate non-English speakers into society by providing books in other languages, hiring librarians who are multilingual or offering bilingual book clubs. Libraries can offer new immigrants and their families a chance to connect with, and find helpful information about, their new communities including citizenship information and English classes.
Libraries are Champions of Youth
Libraries offer a whole host of programs from free tutoring, help with homework and annual summer reading programs for young children and teenagers to help them with their academic performance and aid parents who cannot afford private tutorage. Teen advisory boards and volunteer programs are essential in teaching teenagers important life skills with libraries like the Brooklyn Public Library offering a Multicultural Internship Program which gives young adults a positive work experience.
Libraries can be valuable partners in helping parents with child development through their provision of collections, programs and services which allow children to learn, explore and engage with the world and their peers. If the idea of educating future generations and fostering thoughtful communities inspires you to pursue a career as a librarian then there are numerous online library science programs available at many esteemed educational establishments including the University of Southern California.
From small public libraries to the larger city institutions, libraries across the country are showing their value in society by building communities and supporting local cultures in innovative and impressive ways.
(Photo Credit: Alphonse Mc Clouds)