Sunday, February 17, 2013

Libraries, obsolete? SHH!

I keep seeing articles and posts about libraries and in turn librarians becoming obsolete. While I agree that if your library is simply a "book warehouse" and hasn't keep up with the times, that could possibly be true, my experience with libraries is that they have kept up.

In many ways, I see that libraries have become even more necessary to communities!

Community Partners for Learning:
Our library partners with our schools to be sure our technology is compatible.  They work with our teachers, pulling book collections and other materials to support classroom learning for teachers to check out or for students to find easily. 

We are so lucky to have a community college in our small town of 8,000. It is wonderful to see so many adults pursuing learning!  Many of them need a place to study ( a quiet place, if you have kids at home!), or resources they simply don't have on hand at their house, internet access, computers, copiers, printers, research materials. advice and guidance.

Our library has a full agenda of ongoing education classes with topics ranging from keeping your kids safe online to water color painting, to genealogy, to  all kinds of technology classes, to the typical children's story hour.

We have meeting rooms outfitted with interactive white boards, small kitchens and group seating that are almost always booked for community clubs, groups and businesses.

For the students and families where I live and in so many communities, the library is a bridge across that digital divide!  Broadband internet access has become more and more necessary and not just for our students.  Many companies no longer accept any thing but  online job applications, you can do your taxes, fill out the FAFSA and so many things I take for granted because I have internet access at home.

Literacy Acquisition:
Whether you are acquiring English as a second language or made it to adulthood without learning to read, many libraries have  programs for that. Through a grant written several years ago, our library has become a safe and caring place to gain the literacy skills necessary in today's world no matter how old you are.

Our very youngest learners have access to so many books, so much music and other materials at libraries, they can discover and then explore their passions. As a young mom with no extra money to build a book collection at home, our boys fell in love with Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle and so many other authors & illustrators they discovered at our public library. They researched the frogs, turtles & bugs they found in our yard by borrowing field guides and matching photos. To suggest or even assume that all young children have a tablet computer and the internet to do this online at home is just ridiculous.
Becoming Media Savvy
As well illustrated in my colleague @PaulSCurtis 's latest blog post, our students may do a great deal of research online, but do they actually KNOW what they are doing?  Enter the librarian!  There is no one better suited to help our students (and us) be aware of just what a valid source is and where to find one. Critically evaluating sources is only going to become more necessary as the ability to self publish and declare oneself a guru becomes easier.

Libraries are a Place of Equity
Rich, poor, old , young, no matter what your race, creed, religion or political leanings, all may enter the library, meet, study, learn and in fact have your privacy protected.  No one is monitoring what you check out and then putting up ads for it on your Facebook page. No one is saving your credit card information for future purchases.
Libraries have a long history of defending patron privacy.
This is supported by confidentiality laws in almost every state.

I know I haven't even begun to touch the surface of why libraries are important to our schools and communities, what I do know is that each time we have cut a librarian in our local school system in the name of cost containment, my heart breaks a little. For although the libraries themselves can be wonderful, it is the people in them and the expertise, guidance and inspiration they provide that truly brings them to life.

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."                
                                                                                                            Walter Cronkite
Singing in the library ala the Music Man? YES!

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