There are many people who question the validity of libraries in the age of the Internet. I’m writing this short article to show you why you need to vote for libraries and ensure their existence in the United States. I think I am supposed to be quoting facts and figures that show that the library is important. Exploring studies that show how terrible students are at using the internet. Dissecting the way libraries have evolved. I’m not really good at that, though I assure you that those reports and research do exist. What I am good at, is talking about myself… I mean… telling my story. I want to tell you about 10 things I have done, helped with, or seen since I started working at a library. I know that many of these experiences could have happened at other places of business or government offices, but they didn’t. They happened at a library.
1) I have helped countless seniors complete government forms online (which usually begins with teaching them to double click).
2) I have helped a woman find out-of-state services so she could escape her abusive husband and feel safe, far, far away.
3) I have seen children stay from opening to closing because they have nowhere else to go.
4) I have seen prisoners dance with excitement because the library brought them books (and yes I do think prisoners deserve amenities, quite possibly more than you and I).
5) I have seen a student break down and cry because the librarian helped them find the resource they needed to finish their work (literal tears, not figurative literal tears).
6) I have done a story time in a makeshift bubble bath (fully clothed of course) and had children talk to me about it for years afterwards. “Do you remember that time you did story time in the bath?!”
7) I have seen students come to the library every single day of their winter break because they do not have a computer or internet access at home.
8) I have helped more people apply for jobs, edit their resumes, and write cover letters than a high school guidance counselor.
9) I have seen librarians fight censorship at the risk of their own jobs, because it is that important (and yes that book does belong at a library and no you do not have to read it).
10) I have seen students, immigrants, and refugees from other countries finally feel at home because of the library. I have seen families new to a community find friends and integrate into the community because of library activities.
Libraries create endless possibilities. They are the ultimate choose your own adventure novels. One of the reasons they are so hard to pin down is because so much happens there. Libraries are community builders, knowledge facilitators, democracy protectors, safe havens, and so much more. If you have a chance to vote for a library this year, vote yes to more services, to more community, to more possibilities.
If you believe libraries are one of the most important investments in a community, sign the pledge to vote for libraries here today.
–Dustin Fife is an Outreach Librarian at Utah Valley University and President of the Utah Library Association 2015-16.