Libraries are one of my favorite places. I grew up going to the library multiple times a week. Reading, using the Internet, attending afterschool classes: all kinds of things. The library was the center of my social life and the hub for my learning.
All of this happened because my parents taught me that the library is the heart of a community. Of course, I didn’t understand it that way when I was a youth, but looking back with hindsight, I know it now.
Why Libraries Matter
I could talk your ear off about why libraries are so important. They’re a media hub, a place to gather without any expectation of purchasing anything, and a vital place for free knowledge. Even now, with smartphones being so pervasive, the library offers free access to the web and other important tools like printing, space for classes or gatherings, and local information for travelers.
Libraries have, consistently for a very long time, offered entire communities access to information and resources with little to no investment. Anyone arguing that libraries are outdated or unnecessary is wrong. Period. Send that person to me and I’ll explain to them why (at great length).
Libraries In A Digital Age
Of all the pillars of modern society, libraries are perhaps one of the best to adapt to an increasingly digital world. Put simply, we no longer need to be at the library to enjoy the benefits of the library.
Which, considering the world today and the importance of remote access to materials and tools, the library is arguably more important than ever before. One of the cool ways libraries have been bringing access is through ‘bookmobiles.’ The idea behind a bookmobile has been around for some time, but today mobile library options for borrowing and accessing wifi are more important than ever.
That’s right, libraries have been using their funding for a variety of mobile purposes, including bringing high-speed wifi access to underserved locations. Other libraries from North Carolina to Maine are offering mobile services like curbside pick up and drop off for books and library materials.
And since it’s harder now to take your kids to the library and show them just how important libraries, we all have to work a little harder to be sure we’re sharing the value of libraries with the next generation.
Fortunately, today is a great time to start doing just that!
September Is Library Card Sign-Up Month
That’s right! The American Library Association (ALA) is promoting library card sign-ups this month with some awesome activities. They include a ‘superhero pose’ contest with a $100 prize and a Library Bingo game you can play with your brand new library card!
Since this is all being done digitally this year, it’s more important than ever to help spread the word. And if you or your kids don’t have a library card, sign up for one today! Not sure where to find your local library? We got you covered with WorldCat’s library finder:
Basically, this is the time to sign yourself up and to get your kids excited about libraries.
Loving The Digital
Your library card is a powerful learning and entertainment tool. Which is impressive for a little rectangle of laminated cardboard!
For example, most libraries use OverDrive, an amazing service that makes digital volumes of library books and materials available to anyone with a library card. Now, instead of taking your kids to the library to browse, you can do it right from your home!
This is a terrific opportunity to help your kids learn about how to navigate the digital ‘stacks’ and find books they’ll enjoy. And because OverDrive partners with libraries and educational institutes (as well as being a certified B Corp), you know OverDrive is a trusted service for finding the best reading materials. They’re like a library right in your hand!
Libraries are also acting as a hub for information educators need to adapt to a changing education landscape. One major effort libraries are helping develop is the use of Bitmojis to create a virtual space, both for the library and for classrooms.
What is a Bitmoji? I had the same question. It’s basically a personalized emoji, which means in practical terms, it’s a cartoon version of yourself. The benefit is that you can create static web pages or slides that use your Bitmoji rather than an image of yourself. This makes it much easier to create a virtual space, like a classroom, that retains a personal touch.
Some libraries are even using Bitmoji style ‘Choice Boards’ for their site to help direct patrons to the right resources. These simple graphic designs make it easy to engage library patrons online, highlight efforts or events happening through the library, and can be updated easily.
Getting The Full Library Experience
You have to look at and engage with your local library through their website. Once you’ve got your library card all set up and you know who your local library is, you can find loads of digital events and education assistance through the library.
For example, I looked up the event listings for my local library (Durham County Library) and found 10 events for this week alone! They range from book clubs to an art studies class to a bilingual drawing event. There’s even a virtual gaming event on Monday night!
You can find lots of virtual options from larger institutions as well. The New York Public Library, for example, hosts a daily storytime read-aloud for kids to enjoy. They also host some great resources for kids of all ages and learning levels. PBS also hosts regular read-aloud on its Facebook and YouTube channel. Learn more about how to find those resources from PBS.
Libraries remain one of the foundations of a community. Access to free resources and books, along with numerous other benefits, make libraries an invaluable resource. Even as we look for more digital, at home means of learning and connecting, libraries continue to adapt.
If you don’t already have a library card, there’s never been a better time! And if you do have one, put it to use today!