Letter to the Editor
Celebrate National Library Workers Day
Americans value their libraries, and they show that appreciation by using their libraries in large numbers and by supporting library funding. The library is seen, quite correctly, as both a benign and benevolent pillar of the community and is one of the very few places you can go and be provided with educational, recreational and/or useful materials for free. You can walk out the door of a public library with hundreds of dollars' worth of your tax money all because you have a library card!
In these challenging economic times, libraries across the country are being used more than ever, and frequently with less financial backing from local, state, federal and/or private sources. As a result, the same amount or fewer library staff is continuing to provide outstanding services such as story hours, reference and outreach with fewer resources.
During National Library Week, communities across the country celebrate the second National Library Workers Day and the valuable contributions of our librarians and library support staff. Libraries are part of the American dream -- places for opportunity, education, lifelong learning and free and equal access to a world of resources no matter your age, income or background -- but that dream would not exist if it were not for the people who work in libraries.
Library workers organize and maintain everything that is in the library. Materials need to be selected, ordered, processed and then made available for users. From a book for research or leisure reading to story times for children to computer assistance for job seekers, a skilled and dedicated human is responsible for its presence in the library. Library workers -- catalogers, circulation clerks, reference librarians, library assistants, Web designers and youth librarians, to name just a few -- provide access to the past while preserving the present.
They plan for the libraries of the future and Banned Book Week displays. They choose, order, catalog, label and shelve all of the books, media, serials and other materials. They lobby for funding and crusade against censorship. Library workers read stories to children and books to the blind. They suggest good reads, organize book clubs and drive bookmobiles. They advise vampire slayers, fight crime and throw fabulous parties and events. And, they provide educational support for students, old and new.
Those in public service, whether it's in a public, school, or university library, are skilled and knowledgeable researchers who know just which tool to use for which information need, navigating through a variety of electronic and print resources: almanacs, bibliographies, catalogs, databases, dictionaries, gazetteers, encyclopedias, reviews and yearbooks. And they know how to find "it"-- that fact or book that you need right now! Sometimes locating just the right answer appears so effortless that the customers don't even realize that it wasn't easy. Often library workers are drawing on education and experience that make it look that way.
Library workers do all this and more, even though they are rarely thanked or well paid. Yet, most library staff would tell you that it is rewarding because it involves giving a service that contributes to the overall quality of life in a community. It is positive work that should be recognized in a society that values knowledge, learning and opportunity.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to thank the library staff at their local branch library for the services they provide and to remind our local, state and federal public officials that libraries provide vital services, programs and collections each and every day. Barry-Lawrence Regional Library System works because library workers do!
Gina Milburn, director