Hello readers! Today, I thought it would be nice to talk a bit about libraries and all the things you can do within them and how they benefit each community in different ways. I was watching Bookish Realm‘s video the other day about libraries and it inspired me to talk about what libraries really do.
I studied to be a librarian in college and I haven’t actually worked as one, but I do know a ton about it. Please let me know if I missed anything in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer your questions!
Librarians don’t just sit around all day reading and helping people find books. Of course, that is something they do, but it is far from everything. A librarians job is to give knowledge. That can mean books, but there are many different types of knowledge.
Libraries have been struggling for the past couple of decades to stay relevant. They have adapted to be a place where you can go to find help for so many things, a lot of which have nothing to do with books! There is a science to libraries down to the furniture you sit on.
Libraries usually focus on four different special groups. It really depends on their demographic within your community and their budget. There are kids, teens, elderly, and other people with special needs. This could be anything physically disabled people or people whose first language isn’t English. Each librarian studies different things to focus on each specialty.
The only thing I KNOW librarians CAN NOT do is give you legal or medical advice and show your check out history to anyone including a child’s parents and the police (unless there’s a warrent).
Another thing I’d like to mention is library consortiums. My old library was a part of the Evergreen consortium. A consortium of libraries is when a ton of libraries within one state band together and the patrons of each library can use the books from all the other libraries. These library consortiums are also funded by the state’s library, making them much more fortunate than other libraries who have to fund themselves. If I wanted a book and my library didn’t have it, but another library within the consortium did, they could request that book to be sent to them so I could check it out. This is called an inter-library loan.
This also means that I could go to another library within that consortium and check out books or return them, no matter where I live. For instance, I moved in the beginning of the pandemic and my library was closed off, even from returning books. That meant I was forced to take the library books with me to a town a little over an hour way that wasn’t part of that system. When everything opened back up, I went to a library within the consortium that was only 25 minutes from the town I live in and returned it there.
What do libraries do?
#1 Librarians can help you to fill out applications. This can help the elderly AND people without access to internet in their own homes! I know many of us are all used to having internet and cellphone access all the time, but that isn’t the reality for everyone. Librarians can help people fill out job applications, insurance, food stamps, you name it and they can help. As a matter of fact, they can help you to navigate ANY website if you just ask.
#2 You can take your own cellphone, computer, or device into a library and a librarian can help you to use it! Again, this is a service mostly used by the elderly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. Some libraries even carry e-readers and laptops that you can check out for home use. The library in my old town had a set of glasses you could check out for color blind people.
You can even take your own laptop into your local library and use the libraries printers! Printers now have access to bluetooth, you just have to ask your local librarian how to do it.
#3 They provide a safe space for teens! Libraries go out of their way to serve all types of people differently. Libraries will create a separate room for teens with TVs, video games, and other things to do just for teens. This is because they know teens don’t always feel comfortable to be themselves around adults. They can be with other teens and without their parents hovering over them. A specially trained youth services librarian would be the only adult in the room.
Did you know if and adult goes to the teen or kids section of the library and tries to use a computer, they will be asked to leave and go to the main part of the library? Librarians do not want teens or kids exposed to things that adults might look up.
#4 They preserve documents. Academic librarians are usually the ones who do this. They spend their days trying to preserve old documents, interpret them, and scan them into the online system. If the document was somehow destroyed, there would still be an online version out there somewhere.
In fact, the New York Public Library has a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which is the oldest printed book, Johannes Gutenberg being the inventor of the printing press. Most copies reside in Europe and is a huge piece of the worlds history.
Did you know that most libraries will make a copy of DVDs they get and use the copy to lend out to people? This saves them money so they can just re-copy it if the disc is damaged.
#5 They help reluctant readers to WANT to read. I have seen all types of programs in libraries for kids. My local library, pre-pandemic, used to have a bed-time stories for kids once or twice a week where the librarian would read a book to the kids while they were in their PJs.
Another program I love is when the libraries bring in dogs for kids to read out loud to. It encourages confidence in kids, especially when it comes to their reading.
My local library has programs for kids of all ages in the summer to earn free books. I love to see things like that because a lot of kids don’t have any books in their own home.
#6 They provide places for study, tutoring, and just hanging out. There was a two-week period in college that my internet went out and would not work. This was DEVISTATING for me as I did 99% of my college degree online. My library had a huge section for studying where no one was allowed to talk. It is a huge misconception that libraries force everyone to be quiet all the time, but many of them do have study spaces with that rule.
I also saw kids getting tutored there and a man who came to the library every single day with his laptop, snacks, and sodas, and would watch Netflix on his laptop from open to close (with headphones). I could only assume he didn’t have his own internet access, but you never know.
#7 They provide a safe space for homeless people! Sure, homeless people can’t sleep there at night, but they can hang out in a library all day. Librarians do not care about loitering as long as you aren’t bothering other people. Homeless people need a cool place in the summer and a warm place in the winter to go!
In one of my library classes, we studies for a few weeks about how to handle people with prejudices against homeless people and what to say to them.
#8 They help teach the elderly and create programs to prevent dementia. One thing most libraries do is teach people how to use computers and computer programs such as Word.
Local nursing homes and care facilities can bring their residents to the libraries to participate in programs for socialization and to improve motor and memory skills, thus preventing dementia. Many older people do not have a lot of people they see on a regular basis. I cannot image how lonely they felt during this pandemic! The library can be a place to meet other people when you otherwise can’t.
#9 They can bring the library to those in need! Long before COVID came along, libraries have been finding ways to bring themselves to people who can’t leave their homes. Bedridden people want to read, too! Librarians provide services to deliver books that were ordered online. Some libraries even have bookmoblies. These are vehicles made to carry large quantities of books at once. A book mobile can go to nursing homes all over town and essentially bring the library to those who cannot leave.
Libraries do so much for the community and the people within it, without anyone realizing what they do. Please make sure to thank your local librarians for everything they do next time you go, if your library is currently open, of course!
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