The United States has celebrated National Library Week during the second week of April (aka School Library Month) since 1958. This year, it’s being celebrated April 13–19, with author Judy Blume serving as honorary chair. So how will you recognize the valuable contributions made by libraries and their workers throughout the year?
Reason to Celebrate
One of the seven subprojects of the Pew Internet & American Life Project is Libraries in the Digital Age, which uses a series of targeted surveys, analysis, reports, and presentations to examine the current state of libraries. Its most recent report, “From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers—And Beyond,” explores the levels of engagement citizens have with their public libraries: “Libraries loom large in the public imagination, and are generally viewed very positively: 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community.” A March 18 blog post breaks the public library engagement typology into four levels of engagement:
- High engagement: Library Lovers (10% of the U.S. population aged 16 and older) and Information Omnivores (20%)
- Medium engagement: Solid Center (30%) and Print Traditionalists (9%)
- Low engagement: Not For Me (4%), Young & Restless (7%), and Rooted & Roadblocked (7%)
- None: Distant Admirers (10%) and Off the Grid (4%)
Libraries throughout the nation are offering the public all sorts of multimedia opportunities to express their love for their institutions during National Library Week, often through extremely innovative programming. Librarians will need to use these testimonials to ward off budget cuts by municipalities that find themselves in need of making tough choices in terms of services to fully fund.
According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2014 “The State of America’s Libraries” report:
- Two states were experiencing funding decreases, and Louisiana’s direct state aid for public libraries was “eliminated entirely.” Eleven states (not including Louisiana) have no direct aid to public libraries.
- Ten states reported public library closures, but there were fewer than five closings in each case. That figure is similar to the previous year’s report, in which 11 states reported library closures.
- Twenty-two state librarians were aware of libraries in their state that reduced hours.
This Year’s Celebrations
The positive impact that libraries and librarians have on the daily lives of Americans is a story that deserves to be told, and institutions around the nation are doing just that. The ALA is helping by providing templates for press releases to local media, along with graphics for websites, posters, and other promotional materials. For a roundup of what individual libraries are doing this week, and for stories about how important libraries are to Americans, there is no better place to turn than Twitter (#LivesChange and #NLW2014). Of course, #Libraries always amazes.
Libraries are not alone in their efforts to celebrate the ways in which libraries change lives—publishers are keen to help:
- Scholastic Library Publishing has awarded $3,000 to the Arlington (Va.) Public Library for its public awareness campaign promoting the theme “Lives change @ your library.”
- To demonstrate its appreciation of libraries during National Library Week, Oxford University Press is opening up all of its online resources for free. No signup is required; you can simply log in with the username and password “libraryweek.”
- Gale, part of Cengage Learning, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, announced the results of its Your Beautiful Library photo contest.
- ProQuest has offered libraries free access to its databases for the week; libraries can extend the complimentary access to 30 days. This is in addition to its student video contest in celebration of School Library Month where “[c]ontestants are urged to express their creativity to illustrate how the school library program changes a student’s life.”
National Library Workers Day
Since libraries cannot function effectively without staff, Tuesday, April 15, is National Library Workers Day. There are 166,305 certified librarians in the United States, and thousands more work and volunteer in libraries around the nation to serve the American public. Examples as to how libraries, unions, library friends groups and trustees, and communities choose to thank these individuals can be found at the National Library Workers Day website.
While not specific to National Library Week, perhaps the most talked-about tribute to librarians today is the Carnegie Corp. of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian award. The December 2013 reception celebrated 10 winners who were nominated by more than 1,100 library supporters “for their dedicated public service and the valuable role they play in our nation’s communities in transforming lives through education.” You can read about each of the winners and what each does that is so special at ILoveLibraries.org.
Proclaiming National Library Week
While presidential proclamations are issued throughout the year to recognize all sorts of special days and weeks (e.g., National Poison Prevention Week), we observe National Library Week solely through the efforts of ALA. Perhaps the organization needs a new campaign to bring National Library Week to the attention of the White House in order to get it declared for public observance.