by Steve Zalusky
Each year, libraries move to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness during a weeklong celebration that instills public awareness of their critical importance to our society. This year, awareness of the value of our nation’s libraries is especially critical, in the light of the looming threat of drastic cuts to federal funding for libraries.
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. All types of libraries - school, public, academic and special participate.
This year, National Library Week will be held April 9-15. Events include the release of the American Library Association’s 2017 “State of America’s Libraries Report” on Monday, April 10; National Library Workers Day, April 11; and National Bookmobile Day on Wednesday, April 12. In addition, April is School Library Month, which is sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the ALA.
This year, National Library Week will contain an advocacy component, as ALA launches Take Action for Libraries Day, a national library advocacy effort observed for the first time on the Thursday of National Library Week, April 13.
With federal budget cuts on the horizon, the inaugural Take Action for Libraries Day will highlight the library community’s efforts to safeguard funding for the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which serves as a critical funding resource for every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories to support libraries and museums. IMLS funding helps support literacy programs for youth, small business service centers, services for veterans and technological resources and services like 3-D printers.
“We must stand up and voice our support for libraries to legislators and local, state and federal leaders,” said ALA President Julie Todaro. “Librarians and library workers transform lives every day though educational resources and expert guidance. While many value the contributions of libraries, libraries can’t live on love alone. The loss of crucial federal funding will have a profound impact on library service and the more than 1. 5 billion who rely on them.
“During Take Action for Libraries Day, the ALA encourages librarians, library workers and patrons to advocate for full funding of IMLS which will safeguard federal funding for our nation’s libraries. Our hope is that advocates will fight for libraries by making at least five calls to their legislators to ask for full support of IMLS funding.”
Libraries play an invaluable role within their communities, and federal funding plays a significant part in supporting library programs and services. For example, The Athens-Limestone (Alabama) Public Library depends on IMLS funding to build and update collections; support computer, Job Searching, and Resume classes; fund its books-by-Mail service for homebound residents; and Sensory Storytimes for those with special sensory needs. If funding cuts transpire, the loss of IMLS funding that goes to the state, will cut or drastically reduce services for the blind and physically impaired; statewide summer reading programs; homework help resources; Technical/IT support; and genealogy resources.
The ALA and its more than 57.000 members will continue to work to encourage patrons to contact their local legislators to safeguard IMLS funding; foster library tours for legislators and local leaders to see business research computer classes in action, or veteran’s support groups learning about online resources to assist their families with financial wellness resources; and to provide advocacy tools to Fight for Libraries! Several ALA divisions are currently offering resources that will fuel advocacy efforts to youth, young adult, public library, school library and academic library services. For additional information regarding IMLS and what it provides for your state funding visit the IMLS website.
In Philadelphia federal funding is used to support print and digital collections, databases and business resources. Cuts on the federal level will have a negative impact on the library’s job training and literacy services available to the city’s most vulnerable and marginalized members will be eliminated, or diminished. Philadelphia’s unemployed, low literate, and immigrant populations will have fewer resources to choose from and the thousands of citizens that rely on the library for internet access will experience a deeper digital divide. Also, small business owners will lose access to crucial web resources.
Libraries Transform will return as the theme for National Library Week 2017, reminding all Americans that today’s libraries are not just about what they have for people, but what they do for and with people. Increasingly, libraries are places of creativity where people can meet to share a hobby, use a 3D printer, edit a video, or use software to record their own music. Libraries offer access to the tools, technology and training essential to the economic and cultural lives of their communities.
Among the libraries participating in National Library Week is the East Baton Rouge Parish Library (EBRPL) in Louisiana.
The EBRPL, which has served the community for more than 75 years, offers the use of computers and Wi-Fi, computer classes, online databases, books and magazines, downloads and e-media, programs, concerts, book talks, game nights, various workshops and story times, business plus career and technology resources and much more at its 14 locations.
It also caters to special interests with free programs focusing on gardening, woodcarving, guided genealogy classes, hair care and more. Patrons can access online learning databases like Gale Courses and Lynda.com, plus career planning through the Career Center.
In addition, the library offers verbal language and sign language learning with Mango Languages and Signing Savvy, plus streaming videos, downloadable popular music, video games and digital magazines and more. Programming includes family friendly events such as outdoor concerts, dance performances and movie nights.
Soccer great Julie Foudy serves as the National Library Week Honorary Chair. Foudy is a retired professional soccer player, two-time World Cup champion and a medalist in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics. She was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007. Foudy currently works as a reporter and analyst for ABC/ESPN, contributor and writer for espnW and motivational speaker. This spring, she also will add author to her credits with the release of her first book "Choose to Matter", to be published by Disney Publishing Worldwide.