When it comes to accessibility to the tools and resources people (young and old) need to improve their literacy and reach their highest level of education, I believe it all can begin with encouragement and books. Unfortunately, those two things can be a novelty for some neighborhoods and families. That's why getting involved with your local library - to make sure its patronage never dwindles and can continue to serve its community - is a strong step in keeping doors open that prove a safe space for others to learn and grow.
My life practically began in a library.
So here's my five tips for you if you're looking to get involved with a library:
- Go to your library. - Don't click away, I'm not being sarcastic. It's easy to notice your library, but it's another to be a member, to go inside regularly and to help it succeed. Simply being there, having a card, trading in and out books, and sharing that experience with others is a small step into making it an active part of your community. And the more of a necessity communities deem their libraries to be - before they are at risk - the stronger of a chance they have of remaining in your neighborhoods. Hold small writing groups at your library. Find the non-quiet corners of the library to host your soft-talking book clubs. Take the children in your life there for a fun day out and get them excited to read something you used to love - or explore a new story together.
- Vend from the digital library. - With the invention of e-readers, and just anything that has words printed on a screen these days, it's easy for many libraries with the system to loan you digital copies of your favorite stories. If you can't make it into the library, borrow from the digital one in your county/town. Being a patron that way validates the system's use.
- Get involved in programs. - This one is more than just being there, but it's so helpful. Whether the program you're involved with requires you to be a helper, instructor or crowd participate, be there. Some libraries host summer reading events for kids, teen/youth events after school and during breaks, adult literacy classes, and even classes for random things like Microsoft Office Certification. (Really, my library does that!) Either find your library's website, or reach out to the Information Desk at your local branch, and find out what programs are available to you. It's great if you indulge in it for yourself, but finding ones you can help run with/for staff is just as important. Have an idea for a great one not listed? Find out what it takes to be the host of that event in your community!
- Work outside of the library. - Not every straying wanderer will find their way into a library on their own. Sometimes you have to be an influence for bringing others there. There is a magic to books and reading, and if you share that with people you know (or not), and also recommend copies of stories you love - hinting that they will be at the library to check out - you are more than likely going to casually bring people to the library better than any poster can.
- Donate. - As a patron, your monetary donations matter and your books matter. Many libraries will have programs where they sell your slightly worn books, or repackage your well-kept books you're done using in laminate covers to add to their shelves for patrons to borrow. Got a slew of books you want to donate? Try there first. The more you can offer their selection, the more there will be for others to enjoy when they do come by. And outside of that, if you see the opportunity to donate to build a library/school, help build it yourself, or help fund an event for a library in need, don't turn a shy eye away. The government won't always save it for you. (I mean, we're having to do a lot of work just to save libraries as we speak.)
There are more ways to divide up what I've listed here into really granular steps and details, but I wanted to help you see the basis for what you can do for your local library. It's there to serve you and your community. Treat libraries with care!
Need more help understanding what you can do that is more specific? I'm always willing to reply to your comments below about whatever questions you have. And don't be afraid to ask your librarians the next time you're there.