Libraries

Let's Celebrate National Library Week!

By Jennifer van Pelt

An image of a library. Hundreds of books on bookshelves appear in the image. Photo credit:  square(tea) on flickr

An image of a library. Hundreds of books on bookshelves appear in the image. Photo credit: square(tea) on flickr

What is National Library Week?

April 8th kicks off the 60th anniversary of National Library Week. This week is focused on the importance of books and libraries as well as their contribution to society. Libraries and their patrons across the country are encouraged to participate via social media, contests, events, and fundraisers. The American Library Association (ALA) has partnered with several notable advocates and authors over the years with the goal of promoting reading and the usage of libraries.

Why The Focus on Libraries?

April is also designated by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) to be School Library Month. These two celebrations remind us of the importance of libraries beyond the obvious destination for books. Libraries are a free resource where members of the community can learn to read at any age, get the support needed to find a job, or bring their children to participate in read-alouds.

It is important that children have this exposure to books, and libraries provide the perfect opportunity with their knowledgeable workers and friendly volunteers. Librarians understand that not everyone is literate, so they provide tutors to help teach reading skills, a safe environment to learn about books, and the means to show children the value of reading. At Words Alive, we serve low-income, and sometimes homeless students. School and public libraries are the ideal place for them to go to learn and participate in a variety of activities that can also further their literacy skills, including homework help and art workshops.

What Can I Do To Support Libraries?

Thursday, April 12, is particularly focused on advocating for libraries and taking action on what matters. This year, Take Action for Libraries Day, will be centered around safeguarding funding that libraries depend on. This involves reaching out to local politicians to show your support for libraries, as legislation and tax reforms can affect them. Check your local library’s social media page to see if they mention something about this is in the works and see how you can help!

Alternatively, show your support by becoming a member at your local library! There are so many other benefits libraries provide aside from borrowing books. Most libraries partner with various volunteer groups to help out with topics such as teaching English as a second language, tax preparation, job searching, family literacy, and even bike repair workshops! If you see a need in your community that your library doesn’t already offer a program for, reach out and see how you can help. Libraries are always looking for regular volunteers to expand their reach into the community. You can also visit your local library’s website to see what upcoming events you can attend.

The ALA also has an ongoing initiative called Libraries Transform, an awareness campaign about the ways in which libraries transform lives. Sign up to be a part of the movement!

No matter what you do this week, take a moment to reflect on the ways in which libraries have impacted your life - and be grateful that libraries exist at all!

Sources:

http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibraryweek

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2017/03/take-action-libraries-day-launch-during-national-library-week

https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/03/01/national-library-week-60th-anniversary-libraries-lead/

 

Thomas Jefferson Didn't Say That & Why It Matters

By Christine Richardson

This piece was originally posted here as part of the Harry Potter Alliance's Accio Books series, exploring issues related to literacy, education, and libraries. To find out more about Accio Books and how Words Alive is involved, visit thehpalliance.org/accio_books

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines a library as “a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for use or borrowing by the public or the members of an institution.” But to many of us, libraries are so much more!

Image of a child reading under a tree with the words “Read for Life”. Via  Words Alive

Image of a child reading under a tree with the words “Read for Life”. Via Words Alive

Libraries are places for exploration! They are where we encounter new ideas, find new authors, and discover new worlds. How many times have you read a book that expanded your worldview? How many times has a book you read had a huge impact on your feelings of self-worth, your career, or even your life? The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) owes its existence to a book series, and has done so many wonderful things in the world under the name of the series’ famous character. One of the wonderful things the HPA does each year is a campaign called Accio Books. Accio Books is an HPA sponsored international book drive that to date has collected over 315,000 books, which have all been donated to communities in need around the globe. This year’s recipient is Words Alive, a literacy nonprofit in San Diego, CA. Words Alive was founded in 1999 and now serves more than 5,500 students and families each month through numerous reading programs. The idea behind Words Alive is that reading, and lifelong learning, is fundamental to being a productive member of your community.

Speaking of which, have a think about this familiar quote: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” This quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson. However, there is no evidence he ever said it. Why is this important? The meaning of the quote is very powerful and is said to nicely summarize Jefferson’s views on education. But, he never actually said it. We know this because of historical records kept by libraries and archives. They provide us not only with a future to explore, but also a past to discover.

This story shows us how easily quotes or ideas can make it into popular culture even when their sources are misattributed. Thankfully, libraries (and the access to information contained within them) are here to help us fact-check and discover the truth. We need an educated public, and part of that means publicly accessible information. That is how we will gain knowledge. Libraries provide us with information that helps us become knowledgeable citizens.

“Fake News” spelled out in Scrabble Tiles.  Image via the American Library Association

“Fake News” spelled out in Scrabble Tiles. Image via the American Library Association

We are living in a time when access to the truth is being put to the test. Right now, we are deeply in need of libraries and the access to information they provide. Libraries enable us to become the educated citizens our democracies need to survive and, hopefully, to thrive. Without libraries providing a historical record, we would not have the tools necessary to know, for instance, that a quote attributed to a famous founding father of the United States was actually misattributed. It also allows us to fact check our elected officials to know whether they are telling us the truth, stretching the truth, or flat out lying to us.

This week, as part of National Library Legislative Day, thousands of librarians and wizard activists stood up for libraries by advocating to Congress for full funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (the source of nearly all federal funding for libraries) and full support for net neutrality. Their activism in D.C. and across the country was amazing — and it’s not over yet. Help libraries keep helping us: call Congress today and tell them about the importance and magic of libraries.

Because fake news can have real-world consequences. Image via  ilovelibraries.org

Because fake news can have real-world consequences. Image via ilovelibraries.org

At the end of Accio Books, the recipient site for the campaign (in this case, Words Alive) hosts an event called the Apparating Library where the books received throughout the campaign are distributed back out into the community and given to the kids, youth, and families who most need them. This library is well-named as it has appeared (or, apparated) to numerous places around the world since the start of Accio Books in 2009. Communities in Rwanda, New York City, Michigan, Missouri, the Netherlands, Uganda, and now California have benefited from the increased access to knowledge that this Apparating Library brings. Please join me in advocating for well-informed communities by supporting your local libraries, the Apparating Library, and thousands of young readers around the world through Accio Books!

Christine Richardson is a librarian by day and nerdfighter always. She volunteers with the HPA and Uplift.