On Friday October 18th at our regional library council annual meeting, the President of the American Library Association, Barbara Stripling gave an inspiring talk on how libraries change lives. How Libraries Change Lives is the message of her presidency, and as a former school librarian and current library school faculty member, this is a subject near to her heart, as it is to all or most librarians. As part of her presidency, she is urging all citizens to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries and to understand that libraries are more than warehouses for books but are also vibrant centers of learning, community conversations, and innovation.
She began by saying that changing the world is an enormous and intimidating concept surrounded by trite rhetoric and little action; and to be truly effective, an individual who wishes to change the world endeavors to have an impact on the lives of others, one life at a time! We don’t alway hear about the impact we have on others but as we live, work, play, and learn we need to have faith (my word not hers) that our impact may be felt in small or large ways. When we empower individual voices to speak and to sing, we change lives.
Libraries are safe places to have democratic conversations away from the hurley burly of hyperbolic rhetoric and name calling. Our communities
have the right to have strong libraries. With each need comes opportunities and challenges, or as Stripling put it, “chopportunities.”
Libraries empower the Individual. Libraries provide places and materials for people to imagine, create, communicate, discover, achieve, and develop qualities such as perseverance, self-confidence, and grit (I especially like that one). Stripling said it’s hard to develop grit by yourself. It’s sort of the other side of the growth of a pearl. You can’t become a pearl without the presence of the grit to rub up against.
Libraries support literacy and learning. In our environment, there are new literacies, social responsibility, and technologies in which to the individual needs to become fluent.
Libraries strengthen families and promote intergenerational conversations and interactions. Libraries are great equalizers in terms of class, income, and status. The second level of the digital divide, with the first being access, is the lack of skills in using the technology.
Libraries protect our right to know. Libraries provide access to materials that study all sides of an issue, popular, unpopular, acceptable, and unthinkable. Libraries and librarians make us think about our privacy, and social responsibilities.
Libraries strengthen our nation. Libraries are democratic in their conception and hold a special place in our history and the building of the nation.
Libraries preserve our cultural heritage.
Libraries help us understand each other better. We can develop greater empathy and understanding of how we see each other.
In an era where libraries are threatened, defunded, and questioned, it’s important to be able to articulate and communicate the importance of this ideal and the reality. We do have the right to our libraries whether we read fiction, study for our classes, research a new invention, or learn to read and survive in our world. The world of information is changing but the need for knowledge and wisdom is eternal. Your library is the place to seek and create. Sign the declaration , host an event, and/or use your local library.
Chocolate is better than libraries…except the library won’t give you pimples, expand your waistline, cost you money, or go straight to your hips. So maybe libraries are even better than chocolate….and you have to admit that is really good!