— Columbus Library (@columbuslibrary) January 15, 2017
The library isn’t just a happy place (though it is definitely a happy place). The library is also a center for the free exchange of information, which is vital to our democracy. The library assists us beyond getting us copies of our favorite books; libraries contain job centers, meeting spaces, assisting with taxes or voter registration, homework help, and access to technology for people who might not have any. Libraries are known to create economic value by increasing literacy in populations, helping people apply for jobs, and providing research materials for small businesses.
In the coming weeks, months, and years, we will need to ensure that our libraries get the support that they need if and when politicians suggest that libraries be de-funded (which seems likely in a political climate that abhors information). Here are ways that you can start supporting your local library right now:
1. Use it! If libraries can show that they are needed and well-used by constituents, it’s easier for them to make the case that they should receive funding (which should be a no-brainer but we’re living in a post-truth world right now). Things that leave a paper trail would be a good bonus: apply for a card, check out books, request books, sign up for events.
2. Volunteer! You, yes you, can volunteer at your local library. Volunteers help libraries keep costs down and serve the community better; contact your local library to see what they need help with. This goes double if you have a special skill that could benefit the library in some way.
3. Donate or become a member! I know that my local library has a “Friends of the Library” program where you can become a member, like at an art museum; yours will likely have something similar. You can also just give them money–they might even have a cash collection area where you can give your pocket change. It adds up over time. If you have no cash at all, you can usually donate books, as well.
4. Shop at the library! My library has a shop where you can buy neat book gear and also some used books. Many libraries have book sales. What’s better than supporting your library and also buying more books? NOTHING.
5. VOTE. Contact your reps. And watch your local legislation like a hawk. You may even want to periodically contact your library to see if there’s any legislation coming up that would affect them. Vote against anything that would harm the ability to use the library freely or that would leave it unfunded. (Your local library’s social media might be another good avenue for this information.)
6. Follow and support the ALA. The American Library Association advocates for libraries in Washington DC and provides resources for libraries. You can check out their website here.
7. Be a loud and enthusiastic library lover! Talk to everyone about the library. Instagram your book stacks. Check in on Yelp or Foursquare. Remind everyone that the library is extremely excellent and that they should also be hanging out there.
Librarians and library junkies, help me out–what else can people do to support their local libraries? Let me know in the comments.