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A Look Back at National Library Week 2024

National Library Week

As National Library Week, observed April 7-13, draws to a close, we’re reminiscing about the multitude of ways that everyone celebrated libraries and how they impact our lives every day.

Mayors and city leaders across the country used their voices and stature to recognize libraries throughout the week.

Speaking at East Springfield (Mass.) Library, Dominic Sarno, mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, proclaimed:

“My administration is proud to celebrate and recognize National Library Week … to highlight the essential and important role our neighborhood libraries play in our community. They serve as a place to learn, where the community can gather, and hold numerous events and programs to support and enhance the quality of life in our community…. I want to encourage every resident to stop by and visit and support your local neighborhood library and thank a library worker for everything they do.”

In South Plainfield, New Jersey, Mayor Matt Anesh said NLW is a time to “take advantage of the world of resources available” at the South Plainfield Public Library.

“Our nation’s libraries provide a forum for diverse ideas and points of view that help us better understand each other and ourselves,” Anesh said in a proclamation made during a city council meeting. “Libraries are part of the American dream, places for education, opportunity, and lifelong learning.”

In Milton, Wisconsin, librarians at Milton Public Library spent the week driving home the theme of NLW this year: “Ready, Set, Library,” a call to action for Americans to rediscover the treasure trove of opportunities libraries offer.

“Ready, Set, Library! means we’re always prepared to provide various services for our patients and our community,” Milton Public Library Director and Teen Librarian Ashlee Kunkel told the “Milton Courier.”

“One of our strategic objectives is to give community members access to opportunities and tools to learn, grow, explore, and create,” Kunkel said. “And to do so, we want to expand and create strong learning partnerships. It’s important for us to look beyond our walls and work with organizations that share the same goals as us and to work with people with vast knowledge, resources, and connections in a wide variety of topics that could benefit the diverse needs of our community.”

A recent collaboration with the Ice Age Trail Alliance has allowed Milton Public Library  to be on the Ice Age Trail.

“We really like the idea of walkers and hikers coming through and seeing our gardens, reading the story along the pathway, and potentially stopping in the library,” Kunkel said.

In a special NLW edition of L.A. County (Calif.) Library’s “Trailblazers in Conversation” virtual series, library director Skye Patrick chatted with 2024 I Love My Librarian Award recipient Mychal Threets about his journey from librarian to a viral social media influencer and his recent collaboration with PBS Kids. The conversation offered insights into the evolving role of libraries in the community, underscoring the importance of literacy and addressing the challenges that library professionals face.

“L.A. County Library is more than just a place to check out books—it’s a community hub where people of all ages can gather, learn, and be inspired,” Patrick said.

ALA celebrations

The American Library Association (ALA) kicked off National Library Week with the release of the annual State of America's Libraries report, which highlights the ways libraries and library workers have taken action to address community needs with innovative and critical services, as well as the challenges brought on by censorship attempts.

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2023. American Library Association

As with recent years, book censorship took center stage in the report. ALA reported in March that the number of unique titles targeted for censorship surged 65% in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the Association. The report expands on and explains those numbers and also contains the highly anticipated list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2023, along with the reasons why the books were banned or challenged. A list of the most challenged books of 2023 can be found here.

Monday was also the second anniversary of Right to Read Day, a day of action launched by Unite Against Book Bans. This year’s theme was “Don’t Let Censorship Eclipse Your Freedom to Read,” and everyone who supports the right to read was encouraged to take action today by contacting Congress.

National Library Workers Day

Celebrated each year on the Tuesday of National Library Week, National Library Workers Day recognized the hard-working, dedicated, and often-underpaid library professionals who keep our libraries thriving, especially during these challenging times.

Library lovers across the U.S. were encouraged to submit their favorite librarians to the ALA-APA Galaxy of Stars, which features praises and other good words that people throughout the U.S. have written about their favorite library workers. ALA-APA receives more than 1,000 Stars submissions each year, representing public, school, academic, government, and special libraries.

National Library Outreach Day

2023 was a tumultuous year for libraries. Book bans dominated headlines as well as city council and school board meetings, threatening the access of information to readers of all ages and the livelihoods and safety of library workers across the country. Despite these upheavals, libraries soldiered on to provide critical services to their communities—and developed truly innovative programs along the way. On National Library Outreach Day, celebrated every Thursday during NLW, we surveyed some standouts, including:

  • Cleveland Public Library (CPL), which opened Neighborhood Housing Court kiosks at branches across the city, in partnership with Cleveland Housing Court, to help residents address housing issues with the city. Their availability at CPL branches has removed barriers for residents, many of whom are unable to travel to the courthouse downtown for various reasons to meet their court date.
  • Penn State University Libraries, which launched three sensory rooms at its Berks, Brandywine, and University Park campuses to support student wellness and belonging through the libraries’ LibWell initiative. The rooms are designed to provide a safe, inviting space for neurodivergent students who may struggle in traditional study spaces.
  • Spartanburg County (S.C.) Public Libraries, which started its Bags of Hope initiative to provide food and other essential items to those in need.

Reader Voter Ready graphic

Thursday was Take Action for Libraries Day, where library advocates like you reached out to Congress to protect the freedom to read and stand against censorship.

On this annual day of action, library lovers also joined together to affirm their participation in the 2024 elections. The nation’s libraries play a critical role in our democracy, encouraging readers, educating voters and preparing all of us to participate in elections.

To launch ALA's new Reader, Voter, Ready campaign, we asked library advocates this week to pledge to get informed, get registered, and get ready to vote. It’s not too late to take action! Use the action form here to sign the Reader, Voter, Ready pledge and commit to voting this year. You can also find invaluable voter-engagement guides and other resources to get informed—and inform others—this election year.

Of course, we can't forget the incredible work of NLW 2024 honorary chair, award-winning author Meg Medina. In addition to the wonderful videos that she's shared on social media and with ALA (see below) and the incredible outreach and advocacy that she's done for libraries all week (and all year), Medina also penned for us a lovely ode to libraries—and Brussels sprouts—to kick off NLW last Sunday. If you've not yet read it, please do. You won't regret it.

Thanks to everyone for helping to make NLW 2024 an absolute success. See you next year!

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