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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Finding, Building and Gaining Support For Librareis

Some things never stay the same. That is a good thing. Same old, same old tends to go out of style quickly. This is especially true in a society that craves something new every five minutes. This is just a hunch, but it may have to do with the fact that computers and other technical advances become outdated the minute the buyer opens the box. Having said that, becoming too trendy is not a good thing when seeking longevity. If libraries are hoping for longevity and keeping up with the latest and greatest gadgets, it is important to aim for a happy balance.

Economic hard times often bring libraries to the forefront of a community. People with less cash in their pockets turn to their local library for information and entertainment. This is the one place in the community where every family can benefit from and enjoy. With recent libraries closings and libraries' hours of operation being cut, families must decide if it is worth it to fight to keep their libraries open or find an alternate place to fulfill their need for books, entertainment and education. It is up to librarians and library advocate to convince the families that fighting the good fight to keep libraries open is not only worth it but also necessary.

The first step to building support for libraries is to take the politics out of libraries and make it a universal need. Politicians, whether they are Independent, Republican or Democrat, should support libraries. There are no logical reasons why legislators would vote down funding for libraries. The idea of a free library is key to this country's ability to remain a free society. This include public, academic and school libraries. The American Library Association has created a link on their web page which provides a scorecard for how legislators voted on library issues. http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/legscard/index.cfm This is handy not only to find out the particulars of a vote but also to keep lawmakers accountable for their vote. If certain legislators consistently vote against libraries, it would be time to either educate them on the value of libraries or vote them out of office.

Secondly, it is important to educate voters on how libraries have evolved in order to continue providing relevant and reliable resources. If libraries continue to rely on the "past" as a reason to support the argument that libraries are essential. Then we are doomed as a profession. In many people's mind library is a dusty old place with books with fading yellow pages, old equipment and little old ladies with silver hair admonishing people to "Be Quiet." Those days are long over and it's time to set the record straight. Libraries can be technologically advanced when given the proper funding and support. Without this support, free WiFi, databases and card catalogs would not be available. Consider that in the State of Michigan, funding of libraries have been cut so drastically that it has literally taken Michigan libraries back fifty years. The reality becomes that it will be that much harder to hang on to remain reliable and relevant. For some libraries, they are barely hanging as it is. The cuts adds salt to the wounds.

Finally, be an active participant in Virtual Library Legislative Day on May 10, 2010. It's as easy as clicking onto the website www.ilovelibraries.org. From there anyone can find their legislators and contact them to let them know just how important libraries are to their communities. This can be done from your home and takes just five minutes. Once you have done your part, invite your family and friends to do the same. Legislators need to hear loud and clear that libraries are too important to just board up and abandon.

Libraries are not about keeping things the same. Rather, libraries about shaking things up and finding new ways to enrich the lives of patrons with the resources they need to make their lives better. Could their be any better reason to serve the community?
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