During my time in Honduras I had the pleasure of working in a community library built by the Riecken Foundation. The Riecken Foundation collaborates with rural city governments and volunteer citizens in Honduras and Guatemala to bring libraries to their communities. Each community is responsible for electing a board and librarians, securing land and a building for the library’s operations, and assuring librarians’ wages and operating expenses. In return the Foundation provides 80% of the cost of construction, books, computers, printers, photocopiers, library furniture, and staff training, as well as promoting a variety of programming, activities, and ongoing support. The Foundation has 53 libraries throughout Honduras and 12 in Guatemala. Please take a few minutes to learn about this excellent organization.
In this digital age where we have information and resources constantly at our fingertips, what is the role of community libraries? How are libraries staying relevant in the midst of ever-changing technologies?
Libraries protect public access to information, for everyone. “If we accept the commodization of information… we will diminish the public’s right to know.” Patricia Shuman, former President of the American Library Association (ALA). Building a library can revitalize a declining neighborhood and raise property values, provide resources to small businesses and job seekers, offer free Internet access and promote computer literacy. In fact the Internet has actually made libraries more relevant, not less so, but serving as the only free source of computer and Internet access in most communities. Libraries help immigrants learn English and engage with their new community. Libraries preserve local history and cultural traditions for future generations. Few institutions can claim to serve a community’s needs so broadly as do libraries, from toddlers to senior citizens, across the racial, political, and economic spectrum.
What can we do to support our libraries?
Visit frequently! Check out the calendar of events and participate in the free activities offered. This month my local library is offering meditation classes, a class for first-time home buyers, financial planning and debt counseling, 3D printing and design, knitting and crocheting, book clubs, computer literacy courses in English and Spanish, and their website offers free courses for download. Take your kids or friends’ kids for regular afternoon visits. Check out some of your favorite books and contact a local nursing home about reading to their residents. Join your local Friends of the Library group or start one. Serve as a library trustee. Attend school board meetings and advocate for a library in each local school, staffed with a certified school librarian. Embrace the opportunity to interact with members of your community of different ages and walks of life that you may not otherwise encounter. Embrace the open exchange of ideas that libraries allow.
How do you utilize your local library? Share your ideas on promoting and supporting libraries!