The Merit of Your Library

Jun 4, 2019

In some of my high school level classes, I require the use of outside sources during paper composition, and students often seem baffled when I require at least one source to be a book source. They ask, “Can’t we just use the internet? Where will we find a book to support this topic?” My response is always the same, “Go to your library.” In my observation as a teacher, it seems that there are an alarming amount of pre-college students not using the resources available to them at the local library, but this isn’t the first time our culture has experienced a general dis-use of the library system.

With the swell of information available at our fingertips and in the wake of the internet’s novelty in the late 1990s, it’s no wonder that libraries suffered a lull in usage at the turn of the century.  As libraries implemented changes to keep up with the times (offering access to computers and other business machines, accessible training, and free Wi-fi), patrons again saw the merit of the public library, and usage has gradually increased over the past fifteen years. Having lived through this occurrence, many adults realize that the presence of a library within a community is vital, but as our children/students are growing up in an age that is entirely digital, it is imperative we pass on this knowledge to upcoming generations and encourage our children/students to become an active part of the local library community.

5 Reasons Libraries Have Merit:

  1. libraryLibraries provide free educational resources to everyone. Libraries are a safe space for all people to learn. When researching for my first novel, I read over 40 books, and every single one of those was checked out from the library, saving me over $800. Libraries also offer other free learning opportunities: English language learning, sign language classes, resume writing, continued education, workshops, etc. These are free programs that could enhance a student’s educational experience and should be taken advantage of.
  2. Libraries provide community programs aimed at patron growth. Every year my children thrill at the Summer Reading Challenge through our local library. For every 30 minutes they read, they get a mark, and these marks can be exchanged for free ice cream cones and other small prizes throughout the summer.  One of my children reads willingly all the time.  The other two read much more willingly during those summer months.  This is just one example.  Community programs vary by location but include things like: reading programs, tutoring programs, internships, creative writing programs, author talks, lectures, etc.  All programs are designed to help patrons grow in some capacity…for FREE.
  3. Libraries act as a community hub. Libraries bring people together through book clubs, activity clubs, interest clubs, art clubs, discussions, events, etc. They connect people to others within the community and can give patrons an opportunity to learn and grow in ways they might not have been able to otherwise. If you’ve never plugged into a library event, I encourage you to do so. It’s a great way to make connections. My children have made friendships through art and Lego clubs.
  4. Libraries preserve history and truth. While it is easy to publish anything at all on the internet, it is much more difficult to get published in book form AND be accepted into the library system. I warn my students about the perils of the internet frequently; when using internet sources, we must be ultra-diligent in vetting the source to make sure it is trustworthy. In this regard, libraries act as a sort of filter, presenting information that is generally viewed as more credible.
  5. Librarians are assets! While librarians have many responsibilities throughout the day and do not just sit around waiting on questions from patrons, it is important to realize that they are an asset to their communities. Librarians know answers, and when they don’t know answers, they know where to find them. They also often have in-depth insight into the community and connections within the community, and, generally speaking, they are more than welcome to help when they can.

Libraries are certainly not a thing of the past.  They are, instead, paving the way for the future.  Take advantage of them, and encourage your children to see them for the rich resource they are.

For more discussion on this matter, check out these articles from American Libraries Magazine and from Tanglewood Books.

Jess Woods currently resides in upstate New York with her husband and three children. Though she spent her childhood and adolescence in Georgia, Jess has lived in eight different states and has a fondness for traveling and experiencing different regions, as each one has taught her something about herself and about community. Jess enjoys reading, writing, and all things music (ok, most things music). Teaching is the perfect career for her since she loves being able to experience an appreciation for words and story come alive within other people.