It’s National Library Week! 14 reasons why U.S. public libraries are awesome

A library is not a luxury

Image credit: A Library is Not a Luxury by Enokson, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

It’s National Library Week! I’m a big fan of the library. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Totally free access to books, ebooks magazines, movies and more!
  2. Your local library doesn’t have an item you’re looking for? If another library has it, and your library has a interlibrary loan agreement with them, you get to borrow it!
  3. The Dewey Decimal System. In 1873, librarian Melvil Dewey was frustrated. Not only could he not find his keys, he couldn’t find reference materials quickly enough. He knew there had to be a better way to organize books by the content they contained. Eventually he invented the numerical classification system that bears his name and shared it with the world in 1876. The rest, as they say, is found in the 900s (History and Geography).
  4. They provide access to computers with free, high-speed internet access–some libraries even lend laptops for home use! According to the American Library Association (ALA), as of 2012, 62% of libraries are the only source of internet in the community they serve.*
  5. Do you have your own laptop? The ALA says 91% of libraries reported free wi-fi is offered in their library.*
  6. Are you just starting to dabble in social media and don’t know a tweet from a twit? Your friendly librarian can teach you all about it; 90% of libraries report they offer free technology training, according to the ALA.*
  7. Lifelong learning courses. Not only can you check out materials to feed your head, many libraries offer free programming to make you smarter. I’ve taken advantage of this myself attending writing classes (taught by published authors), health and wellness classes and more!
  8. Author visits. Sure, they want to promote their latest book, but you get the chance to interact with some of your heroes. I had the chance to meet Sarah Vowell. (I got her autograph, but I was to shy to talk to her.)
  9. Job search help. My local library even has a dedicated career center that employs certified career counselors to help with resume preparation, interview skills and other tools to help you find your next job.
  10. Online databases for research. Can’t make it to the library? It’s midnight and really need to know what Consumer Reports thinks about the blender you’re thinking of buying? No problem. Many libraries allow access to their subscription databases via their website as long as you confirm your library affiliation with your library card number.
  11. Storytime for kids!
  12. Need a passport? A lot of libraries are approved to accept passport applications and even take the requisite photos. While you’re there, you can even check out some things to help you plan your trip!
  13. Trained, friendly librarians who have superpowers. When you’re struggling to find what you need (believe it or not, everything cannot be found on the internet), they have some clever tricks and tools to get that information for you.
  14. Did I mention it’s free?

Of course, there is a significant cost to running your local library. A lot of library funding comes from state and local government sources so this stinky economy has been hard on library pocketbooks, too. When you’re asked at the polling booth to support a tax levy to help fund your public library, I hope you consider voting “Yes.” The benefits the library and it’s staff provides to your community are priceless.

Need more convincing? Watch these videos from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (you might need to have some tissues handy):


*Source for library statistics: American Library Association, ALA Fact Sheet 6Retrieved April 12, 2014.

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