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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Calling all Professions: Support Your Library!

Neil Gaiman has some ideas of what the future holds for libraries. While it is wonderful to see authors coming to the defense of libraries, there is a question that begs to be answered. Why other professions have not gotten on the library bandwagon? Libraries have long had the image of a building loaded with books, newspapers, magazines and every type of reading material one could hope to find. It also has the image of librarians in stuffy hair buns and glasses "SSShhhIng"patrons while reading their own book of choice at the reference desk. Of course, the idea that the library is a place for nerds and geeks never has gone away. Take away all the stereotypes, what is left? A building that everyone is welcomed to enter to find their own path to the information they seek. That is not just the future of libraries, it is the past and the present as well. If this is what libraries do the best, what needs to be done to get more professions on board singing about how wonderful libraries are? From a purely political point of view, the first step should begin with local politicians. What political leader in their right mind would say "No' to the library? The library offers the perfect non-threatening place to look up political ideas. It is at the library where anyone of any economic condition can educate themselves on political parties, social issues of the day or find out how to form an effective protest rally. This is America after all and the freedom to learn more about our government and it's officials has never been taboo. Why do libraries wait until a mileage to gain political support of local officials. What libraries should always be doing, whether it's a public, school or private library, is to gain support before the library needs the votes cast for it's survival. It would be wonderful if every Mayor in large cities would publicly state that they not only support their libraries, they use it on a regular basis and they encourage all the citizens to do the same. For the libraries who have very supportive local officials who help celebrate libraries, the next step should be to going to the next step, which in many cases would be state legislature. There should be a Legislative Day at the Capital for Libraries. If the state your library resides in does not have one, it's time to team up with the State's library association and coordinate one. It is an effective tool to getting to know State lawmakers as well as getting the message out about the importance of libraries. Another natural partner to libraries are teachers and homeschoolers. Much of a librarian's time is used to help students of all ages and coming from different types of schools, from private, to public and homeschooling. It will never make a huge difference on how students acquire the information they need to complete a project, they all make their first stop at the library. Parents often lament that with Internet at home, why do they need a library? While students are savvy with computers they still need guidance on finding information and knowing what critical questions to ask when doing research. In addition to that, libraries are the best places for students to put into practice "independent" learning. What many fail to realize that even by logging in at home, students can and do use the library electronic resources. Wouldn't it be great if Teacher associations, homeschoolers and National Honor Society all came to the aid of libraries? Want an "A" student, get your child to a library! American Library Association were brilliant with READ posters promoting reading using celebrities. When ALA first came out with the ad campaign, it was applauded. Now it's starting to lose it's effectiveness. It would be interesting to do a survey of teen and adult readers to find out how much these posters influenced them to read. For example, did the poster of Tony Hawk excite them about reading or going to the library? It would be interesting to see what the answer would be, however it goes back to square one. Finding support on the local level from everyday folks and professionals who can't get enough of the library. Sure it's nice to see a beautiful actress promoting the library but does she provided the impact that is needed to motivate people to use the library. Maybe but it still wouldn't hurt to have professionals like lawyers, doctors, auto mechanic (yes even in the blue collar sector) to toot the horn for libraries. Wouldn't it be amazing to see the many ways libraries help all professions? It's got to be worth a shot to start reaching out and networking to gain the support.
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