What Libraries Do

Libraries are places of information. When most people think "library" they think books. And while that is certainly true, these days books take different shapes, such as e-books and audio books. More than just books, libraries are places of information, offering people free access to a wealth of information that they often can't find elsewhere, whether online, in print or in person. Whether they're looking for DVDs or the latest best-seller; health or business information found  on internet databases not accessible at home, or going for story times and community programming, the library is a center of community for millions of people. 

America's 123,000 libraries fall into four basic types (with a few added variations): Public, School, Academic and Special. There are also Armed Forces libraries, Government libraries and multi-use or Joint-Use libraries, which combine library types in one service area or structure. Learn more about America's libraries

At the center of all types of libraries is the librarian. Librarians are information experts, selecting books relevant to the community, creating helpful programming, and connecting people to information. 

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

Neil Gaiman, Author

Build Community

Libraries are community hubs. In addition to connecting people to information, libraries connect people to people. They are safe havens for kids when school is not in session, offering after school homework help, games and book clubs. Libraries offer computer classes, enabling older adults stay engaged in a digital world. Bookmobiles and community outreach programs keep those living in remote areas or those who are homebound connected to the larger community.

Public libraries also help communities cope with the unexpected. The rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has many public libraries struggling to keep up with the demand for public computer terminals and with requests for help in using the act’s website. Libraries also play a key role in the wake of natural disasters; after Hurricane Sandy, for example, people left homeless by the storm were filling libraries in New York and New Jersey, using library computers to complete federal forms and communicating with loved ones using the library’s internet connections.

Provide Access

Libraries level the playing field. As great democratic institutions, serving people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity, or physical ability, and providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.

Promote Literacy

Libraries are committed to helping children and adults develop the skills they need to survive and thrive in a global information society: the ability to read and use computers.

Basic, functional literacy is an essential skill for an individual’s personal and professional growth—it is also key to their full, beneficial use of a library’s services and programs.  Yet, according to a study conducted in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education and National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S.—14 %—cannot read. 21% of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19% of high school graduates can't read at all.

The implications of these statistics are alarming, indicating that many adults cannot identify a specific location on a map, complete a job application or an insurance form, understand the instructions on a medicine bottle, or effectively help their children with homework.  

With a long tradition of providing resources and services for adults wanting to improve their reading and writing skills, libraries are committed to helping children and adults develop the skills they need to survive and thrive in a global information society.

Protect Your Rights

Libraries are advocates for your right to read and your right to reader privacy.

Freedom of information is fundamental to the American way of life, and free and full access sets us apart from many countries. Libraries and librarians are committed to preserving both the freedom to read in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. Protecting user privacy and confidentiality is another integral part of the mission of libraries.

Innovate

Libraries are places for community engagement, a platform for great minds to come together. The way people are using our libraries is changing as fast as technology is changing society. Increasingly, libraries are becoming a place for creation and collaboration. 

Makerspaces

In recent years, libraries of all types have begun to create space and activities that center around creativity. From rewiring a lamp, to 3D printers, to sewing circles, libraries are capitalizing on a priceless commodity: the sharing of personal knowledge, or learning by doing.

Gaming

In the 21st century, libraries are about much more than books! In fact, libraries work very hard to provide patrons of all ages with a rich and current menu of CDs and DVDs, as well as electronic and online resources. Video game resources and programs at the library actually complement these existing services. Featuring this new gaming media helps the library expand its reach while meeting community expectations.. They are also gaining ground in schools as valuable resources that introduce and reinforce a variety of curricular, social and life skills.  Read more.

Sipping in the stacks. Boozing amid the books. Whatever you call it, libraries and Friends groups are doing it: serving alcohol after hours, usually as part of a fundraiser, and usually with great success.The idea of alcohol at a library-sponsored event may strike some as unusual. But supporters say that serving alcohol increases event attendance, particularly among younger adults, and cultivates a public image of the library as a hip, up-to-date social setting.“People are used to relaxing with a beer or a glass of wine,” says Marcy James, programming coordinator for Jefferson County (Colo.) Public Library (JCPL). “When was the last time you went to a big fundraiser or a wedding without alcohol? I think people see libraries as a place to take your child for storytime, which is wonderful, but not as a place to kick back with other adults. If we’re going to change that view, I think alcohol is part of that.” READ MORE
Fifty years ago this upcoming September, the University of Massachusetts saw the groundbreaking of a new student library. In addition to the library’s groundbreaking, this year is the 45th anniversary of the dedication of the tower and the 25th anniversary of the renaming of the building.The following information was sourced from “The Campus Guide: University of Massachusetts” by Marla Miller and Max Page, an online university wiki page, and archived issues of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.The history of the University LibraryNow a centerpiece in the UMass skyline, the library is the antithesis of counsel given to the University founders in 1866 by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. As written in “The Campus Guide: University of Massachusetts” by UMass professors Marla Miller and Max Page, Olmsted urged Massachusetts Agricultural College to only build low, small buildings. READ MORE
 

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