February is National Library Lovers Month!
There is a lot of love flying around during the month February and at least some of it is directed at libraries. This is the month to reflect on just how much your favorite library – school, public, academic, special, private, corporate, etc. – means to you and the others that use its collection and services.
Literally millions of you visit us each day nation wide. Millions. So we already know that you love us, even if you don’t always say it.
Looking for a more concrete way to express your love for your library but think roses are cliche and chocolates cause cavities? Here are three ideas for you:
Just stop by. Even if it has been awhile. Especially if you have never been. There’s no better time to stop in. Browse the shelves, maybe sign up for or renew that library card, check out a book or two or ten, sit down and read a magazine, or attend a program; whatever you’d like.
The Friends of the Moline Public Library Sale Room in the library is totally run by volunteers who assist patrons in selections, accept new donations, restock shelves and sort received materials in our sorting room. Interested? Please print out our Friends Volunteer Application and return the completed form to the Moline Public Library or you can complete the form online.
In addition to giving your valuable time as a volunteer, material and funding donations are always welcome. Books and other donated materials help to supplement our collection and those items that don’t end up on shelf will go to our Sale Room with the proceeds from its sale then going back to the library. Monetary donations help to fund valued library services and programs that are enjoyed by our library patrons. Every little bit helps and is very much appreciated.
Sixteen years ago, American Libraries published Mark Y. Herring’s essay “Ten Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library” (April 2001). Technology has improved exponentially since then—social media didn’t even exist yet. But even the smartest phone’s intelligence is limited by paywalls, Twitter trolls, fake news, and other hazards of online life. Here are 10 reasons why libraries are still better than the internet.
- Libraries are safer spaces. The internet brings people together, often in enjoyable and productive ways, such as over shared interests (pop culture blogs, fanfic sites) or common challenges (online support groups). But cyberbullying and trolling can leave people reluctant to engage with folks they disagree with or to share their ideas in the first place. Libraries are places where people can gather constructively and all are welcome.
- Libraries respect history. Web pages are ephemeral, and link rot is a real problem. The content of library collections is much more stable. Printed materials are generally published on acid-free paper, which will not disintegrate. And librarians are leading the way to bring similar stability to the web through services like the Internet Archive and perma.cc.
- Librarians digitize influential primary sources. While looking at historical artifacts is valuable, repeated physical handling can damage them. Making digital versions of important works available online—as in the National Library of Medicine’s Turning the Pages project—is one solution. Library digitization projects also provide information to people who do not have the resources to travel to a particular library. Librarians are using the emerging technology of the internet to further the timeless mission of providing better access to information. The internet is the platform that enables this progress, but librarians are doing the work.
- Librarians are leaders in increasing online access to scholarly information. The open accessmovement makes scholarly articles available to all readers online, and librarians have been strong advocates of the movement for more than a decade. This access is especially critical when reporting the results of medical research, which is often funded by taxpayer dollars.
- Librarians are publishers. Scholarly publishers still provide the journals and books that researchers develop. But librarians have joined these efforts by becoming publishers themselves. New librarian-led publishing initiatives take full advantage of the web and generally make new work available on an open access basis. One example of library publishing, which is common in academic libraries, is the institutional repository. These repositories collect and preserve the broad range of a college or university’s intellectual output, such as datasets gathered in research studies, computer code used in software development, and conference proceedings.
- Libraries host makerspaces. Given that makerspaces provide venues for creativity, learning, and community, it only makes sense that libraries champion them. The maker movement has grown rapidly—in 2016 there were 14 times as many makerspaces as in 2006. Both public and academic libraries host makerspaces. You can learn about makerspaces online, of course. But to visit one you have to venture into the physical world.
- Librarians can help you sort the real news from the fake. While a plethora of useful, accurate, and engaging content is available online, the web is filled with inaccurate and misleading information. “Click bait” headlines get you to click on the content even if the underlying information is superficial or inaccurate. Misinformation is the spread of deliberate falsehoods or inflammatory content online, such as the Russian-backed ads placed on social media during the 2016 US presidential election. Librarianship has always been about providing objective, accurate, and engaging information that meets the needs of a particular person. This has not changed, and it is why librarians are experts in information literacy.
- Librarians guide you to exactly what you need. Google is an impressive search engine, but its results can be overwhelming, and many people do not know to filter them by content type (such as .pdf) or website source (such as .gov). Google offers many search tips, which are useful but generic. A conversation with a librarian can clarify exactly what you are looking for and figure out the best way to use Google—or many other resources—to find it.
- Librarians do not track your reading or search history to sell you things. Amazon’s book purchase recommendation feature is useful for learning about new books. But this usefulness comes at the expense of your privacy because your reading data is valuable business intelligence for Amazon. The same is true for your web searching history, which is why you often see ads for a product for weeks after searching for it just once. Librarians value and protect your privacy.
- Librarians do not censor. One core value of librarianship, as exemplified by the work of ALA’s Freedom to Read Foundation, is thwarting censorship and allowing the free and full exchange of ideas. The internet is a powerful tool for information sharing, but it takes human advocates to stand for information freedom.
Libraries continue to provide benefits that are both tangible—such as community spaces and human interaction—and harder to quantify—access, privacy, intellectual freedom. The internet is an indispensable and irreplaceable tool for modern living. But it is not a library and will not replace the work of librarians.
Friends groups and foundations help libraries across the country enhance their services and programming by helping the libraries face budgetary challenges and the technological demands of today.
The Moline Public Library Friends Foundation is a volunteer group founded in 1990 and dedicated to supporting the Moline Public Library in order to enhance the services provided to library patrons. Its efforts, through the Friends run book store and fund raising, have provided the library with hundreds of thousands of dollars that were used to provide great and exciting services and programs.
So, if you love your library, thank a Friend today. Or better yet, become one!
by August 30, 2017, first appearing in Library Journal
U.S. libraries battle unprecedented challenges to federal support; you can help—and if you don’t have a copy yet, you can download and print the PDF of our poster, sponsored by Gale Cengage, highlighting services that libraries stand to lose without federal funding. These services were drawn from states’ 2013–17 plans for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds granted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Read it, post it in your library or around your community, and start a conversation.