Why Libraries Matter, Even When They’re Closed

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 19-26 is National Library Week, so what better time to write a love letter to libraries.

I miss going to the library.  Since that’s where I work, of course I was used to going there every day (which is slightly more often than I did before I was a librarian, but not by a whole lot).  I love to see all those rows of books full of information and imagination, and seeing people of all ages discovering new things to read, and talking book-shop with book groups and other librarians.

All that came to a screeching halt not too long ago (remember that?).  We moved our work and our play and our socializing inside and online, and we’ve been hunkered down and staying safe until we gradually begin resuming our lives again.

One thing which has been reassuring through all of this, though, is that libraries have remained a vital part of our communities, even while they are closed to visitors.  Even from a distance, libraries have filled important roles in our community.


Library as Friend

As we have stayed home and stayed safe, our libraries have provided us with myriad opportunities to enrich our circumscribed lives.  We have heard about online programming: stories read by favorite authors, illustrators, celebrities, and pop culture figures (try storylineonline.net, @savewithstories on Instagram, or #OperationStoryTime on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; Michelle Obama will be livestreaming storytime every Monday at noon on the PBS Kids Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as Penguin Random House’s Facebook page until May 11).  Follow your local public library on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms to stay connected with your library friends and up-to-date on programs, resources and important information.

Being able to “go” to the library and check out materials, even if it is from the living room sofa, is a welcome-ly normal routine that everyone--kids and adults alike--can enjoy.  And a little reading-escapism is just what all of us need right about now!

Library as Teacher

Need research materials for a paper?  Check.  Need math tutoring?  Check.  Need Tech help”  Check.  Need information on how to apply for small-business or employment help?  Check-Check.

Whether you are schooling from home, working from home, or looking for important community resources, your library (online) is the place to go for information.  Physical libraries have long been the place to go for information and assistance--from figuring out how to do home repairs to how to write a resume, to writing a research paper or searching genealogical records.  Many of these resources are available online as well, through the many resources provided by our school and public libraries, and state and local libraries are offering expanded free access to important resources right now, so check your library websites and social media platforms regularly for updates.


Library as Reliable-Information Guide

Librarians are trained information-seekers.  And one of our key roles is not holding onto and dispensing information (gatekeepers), but teaching anyone who wants to know how to find, evaluate, and share reliable information; provide support for learning in any context; and provide vetted, accurate sources of information.  Many libraries are even maintaining free internet access in their parking lots for those who need safe access from their cars.  Professional librarians take a kind of oath to provide factual, multi-faceted information and resources on any subject their patrons need or want to research.  They pride themselves on teaching their patrons how to find and use reliable, factual information from a variety of perspectives.  Reference librarians are available online to answer questions and suggest resources 24/7.


Whether we are walking through their doors or logging in online, libraries continue to be the places we can all count on for information, entertainment, and a community of people who care.