A friend once told me that libraries are magical places, and he’s right. It’s where the reading child can take home a stack of Captain Underpants books in one hand and books about sea turtles for an assignment in the other. It’s where a child can delight in Pigeon, Olivia and poetry by Jack Prelutsky, or discover a love of words and reading sitting on a beanbag chair in our children’s room. It’s also where the curious kid can check out a robot, and use a snap circuit kit to explore science and technology for the first time.
The library is where a questioning teen can find books about any sensitive subject, in a non-judgmental, confidential environment with a caring librarian to help guide her. We pair reluctant readers with Molly, the lovable therapy dog, and she patiently and happily listens to stories for hours every month. The library is the place where a recently unemployed older adult can learn to use a computer to search for employment and get assistance filling out an online job application for the first time. Or where the grandmother can sign up for an email account and learn how to use it so she can keep in touch with her deployed grandson. Even where a widowed, older gentleman can spend the day after a serious fall, because he can’t be alone and we care.
Libraries are all this and more, in the heart of every community in New Hampshire. Michael York, our State Librarian, often says that there are more public libraries in our state than there are McDonald’s locations and that is true in every state in our country. Libraries provide vital services in all our communities, without judgment, with a staff of trained professionals ready to tackle any question and challenge for anyone who walks in the door.
We also provide delivery services to the elderly and disabled who can’t visit the library; we educate and entertain babies and preschoolers with story times, lap-sits, reading groups and much more. Teens take part in our workshops and classes that make use of critical thinking skills and teamwork and fill our teen advisory boards, learning how to brainstorm, complete group projects and recommend community services. Beginning in June, 2017 my library will kick off our 59th annual summer reading program, where we help and encourage kids to keep up their skills in reading and prevent the “summer slide.”
At the Goffstown Public Library, we have a reputation for thinking BIG to engage our community in unique, provocative ways. We spearheaded the formation of the Deployed Family Support, providing a firm foundation for spouses and families during a period of deployment; we successfully brought the Vietnam Moving Wall to our community and enrolled hundreds of volunteers and raised thousands of dollars in donations for the project.
We enlisted the help of those incarcerated at the NH State Prison for Women to make our knitted and crocheted helmet liner project a rousing success with hundreds of liners sent overseas to our deployed troops. We collaborate with the Moore Center to welcome their developmentally disabled clients into our library with stories and crafts, delighting them and opening up possibilities. We encourage our community to communicate openly, hosting safe dialog and understanding with our Human Library Project, and recently completed our third event.
Vartan Gregorian is quoted as saying that “The library is central to our free society. It is a critical element in the free exchange of information at the heart of our democracy.” Reducing and eliminating funding for libraries undermines the very fabric of our communities and our democracy, preventing the sharing of ideas, creativity, and involvement of community members. Lack of funding is a sure way to squash open, democratic dialog in our communities and the lifelong education and enlightenment of its residents.
Librarians are at the forefront in the fight against censorship and fake news, providing objective resources and assistance in researching any topic and every political point-of-view. A library is a “no judgment” zone and equalizes services for those without the financial means to pay for internet access, reading materials and recreational activities.
The return on our investment in libraries is indisputable and is money well-spent in every community in every state across our country. When we advocate for libraries we also support our democracy, free speech and education for all.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to artist Lori Preusch for use of “Mother Goose” as lead art for this post. Learn more about her work and her award-winning “Delivering Dreams” here at Dandelion Press.