Libraries and librarians have a powerful and positive impact on the lives of Americans on a daily basis. Their stories are key to communicating the value of libraries.
Libraries across the country are continually changing to adapt to the evolving needs and expectations of the communities they serve.
Communities nationwide will celebrate the contributions of libraries and library workers during National Library Week, April 13-19, 2014. This year’s theme is “Lives Change @ your library.”
This year’s Honorary Chair of National Library Week is Judy Blume. As Honorary Chair, Blume will appear in print and digital public service announcements (PSAs) promoting National Library Week. The PSAs, developed by the American Library Association’s Campaign for America’s Libraries, will be placed in magazines and online.
Libraries provide enrichment, enlightenment and entertainment, with free access to books, digital media and online resources. In challenging economic times, they also offer opportunity, with business centers that help support entrepreneurship and retraining.
Their spaces are filled with parents reading books with their children, students gathering research materials for their homework or adults looking for the latest health care information.
National Library Week celebrations include the release of the ALA’s 2014 “State of America’s Libraries Report” on April 14. The report highlights trends in the library world that impact their customers, and the release of the Top Ten Banned Books list.
April 15 is National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
On April 16, National Bookmobile Day celebrates our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated library professionals who provide this valuable and essential service to their communities every day.
April 17 is Celebrate Teen Literature Day, which raises awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.
April is also School Library Month (SLM), a celebration of school librarians and the essential role that strong school library programs play in a student’s educational career.
Recently, the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project. Reported 91 percent of the respondents said that libraries are important to the community, and 76 percent said that libraries are important to them and their families. The report showed that libraries are especially appreciated because people view them as leaders in technology.
The report also noted the increase in the number of users of library websites, as well as increases among African Americans, Hispanics, those age 16 to 29, and those with some college education.
Libraries are seen as having a mandate to intervene in public life. Seventy-seven percent want libraries to coordinate more closely with local schools in providing resources to children, and 77 percent want free early literacy programs for children. Overall, people look to libraries to help fix struggling schools and to help children learn to navigate new technologies and become critical thinkers.
National Library Week is also a time to stand up for libraries during a time when libraries continue to face challenges, with school libraries in particular continuing to suffer from a combination of recession-driven financial pressures and federal neglect, with the threat of elimination or de-professionalization of school library programs in some districts and some states.
Despite the widespread recognition of the value of school librarians, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that the number of school librarians has decreased steadily since 2007, with a 4.3 percent drop in 2010-2011. In Texas, cuts in the number of librarians (9 percent) were more than double the combined cuts in classroom teachers (2 percent) and counselors (3 percent).
Still, despite widespread budget cuts, many schools, districts, and states are making a commitment to school library programs, acknowledging that strides in public education cannot be successful without a fully staffed and funded school library program.
In Seattle, students at two elementary schools are benefitting from expanded literacy programs and library resources this school year, thanks to a one-year pilot-program partnership with the Seattle Public Library funded by a $91,000 grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The grant allows SPL to loan books and materials to the students, provide special library cards to school teachers and librarians, and introduce a Raising a Reader program.
In Chicago, the Back of the Yards branch of the Chicago Public Library is also serving as a school library for students attending the new Back of the Yards High School next door. The library has two teen librarians, a children’s librarian, and a branch librarian who is also a K–12 media specialist.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, the One City, One Library initiative, a collaboration of the city, schools, public library, and community organizations, hopes to open libraries at a number of schools that do not have them or to refurbish school libraries that have been closed. The down side: All but three Worcester elementary schools lack a librarian.
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is an annual observance by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April.
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