When people think of libraries, their mind probably drifts immediately to books. It’s true; at the core of a library is its bookshelves, and the books it contains within them. However, libraries provide far more to their communities than a vast selection of novels and encyclopedias. Here’s a list of just some of the many things public libraries offer here in the United States.
- Warmth and/or Air Conditioning (by season), drinking water, bathrooms
My area doesn’t have a large homeless population, but we do have a few homeless friends. The library keeps them off the streets, and in a warm environment where they have access to clean, running water, heat/air conditioning, bathrooms for hygiene, and lots of entertainment to keep them busy until they find employment to help them earn a salary to get back on their feet again!
- citizenship classes and books
Trying to become a citizen of the United States? The library can help!
- ESL classes
- foreign language conversation groups
- computer classes for seniors
- music- free, legal downloadable music from the library prevents piracy!
- audiobooks (for the blind and for the sighted)
- travel guides
- children’s storytimes- promoted child literacy
- STEM programs- 3D printing, coding/computer programming…for children, teens and adults
- access to opposing viewpoints
- knowledgable librarians that can help you decode fact from fiction- fake news? not when you consult a librarian and his/her arsenal of research databases!
- help for the unemployed- job searching, resumes, etc.
- a family
- access to research materials, online and in print
- museum passes- encourages cultural literacy, empathy
- resources for learning a foreign language
- books on a variety of topics: cancer prevention, recipes for diabetics, baby names, history, confidence, mental health, religion/spirituality, exercise, environmental concerns….
- community programs/events for all ages: dancing, music, movies, karate, cooking/baking, art….anything a librarian or teacher can dream up!
This list will never be complete. Libraries evolve as technology evolves. I frequently am asked the question, “do you think people don’t need libraries anymore because of the internet?” My answer is always, “No!” People always will need libraries and information professionals. Technology has evolved rapidly- true. The internet gives us access to a whole new world of information that could never fit in a little building- true. But all of this is only a change in HOW we access information. People still need information, and it is a library’s job to protect a patron’s privacy and right to that information. In addition, the internet is full of false information. People need us more than ever to help them decipher it.
When 3D printers came to the market, we bought them, we learned how to use them, and we began teaching the public. E-readers? No problem! We’ve armed ourselves with databases of e-books and audiobooks for our patrons, and set up a program where patrons can come learn how to use their new devices. Technology is a library’s friend, never its enemy.
If a library has offered you any kind of assistance, given you solace or hope when you felt like you were in despair, I would love to hear your stories in the comments below! Tell me what my list missed, and help this list grow with the millions of ways libraries benefit our communities.