— Librarian Problems (@librarianprblms) 14 April 2017
Recently, Ivanka Trump tweeted,
“This #NationalLibraryWeek, we honor our libraries and librarians for opening our eyes to the world of knowledge, learning and reading!”
It sparked an outcry on Twitter, and here’s why:
Her father’s 2018 budget is proposing to eliminate federal funding for libraries. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is part of the National Endowment for the Arts, which is on the chopping block right now.
So, while her tweet seems innocuous and even well-intentioned at first glance, it’s actually a slap in the face to everyone who is aware of the proposed budget cuts. It’s nice to thank your local library and librarians, but not while putting their jobs and resources at risk. Many Twitter followers responded to her tweet by urging her to use her influence to save our libraries.
But, why should we save them?
While some may believe that libraries are a thing of the past, they actually play a vital role in our future and are an invaluable resource for our communities.
Libraries allow us to borrow books in print, but we can also borrow digital books, audio books, and DVDs. They offer free computer access to library card holders. Library card holders can also receive other benefits. In the state of Georgia, library card holders can receive a free pass for a family of four to Zoo Atlanta each year and discounts at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
Libraries also offer free classes to the community. Many offer book clubs and story time for children. Many libraries offer job resources, technology classes, and help with resume and interviewing skills. Still others offer GED classes and tutoring.
As a self-professed bibliophile, I could spend an entire paycheck on books, given the opportunity. But as a single mom, shelter, utilities, and an ever-growing grocery bill require my immediate attention. Public libraries offer people like me the opportunity to satisfy our insatiable desire for reading material without breaking our budgets. I can also go to the zoo for free, visit a puppet museum with my children, and take my children to story time and other family-friendly events all because I signed up for a free library card.
I am also grateful to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which allows each library card holder to receive a free book per child each month to encourage childhood literacy. All of this is made possible by my local public library.
I’m sure we can agree that libraries are still relevant. Even if we use e-readers, we can borrow e-books from our libraries.
So, if libraries are both relevant and important to our communities, how can we save them?
- We can make sure that we are using their resources. Borrow books. Rent a free DVD.
- We can join a local Friends of the Library group to lend our support. There is usually a small annual fee and an opportunity to participate in events to help support the library.
- We can donate our used books and DVDs to libraries. These are often re-sold by the library to help bring more resources and events to the community.
- We can purchase used books and DVDs at our libraries to help support them.
- We can bring awareness to the threat to library funding using social media. The following hashtags are currently in play: #SaveIMLS #NationalLibraryWeek . Many people are also tweeting directly at Ivanka Trump to ask for her support in saving public libraries.
- It’s also important to spread the word about why libraries are important. When our local libraries have events, we can share these events in the community to encourage support and participation. We can let people know how we utilize our local libraries and invite other people to join Friends groups.
- We can contact our representatives to let them know that we are against budget cuts that eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, specifically in regards to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Regular phone calls might help bring attention to this issue.
- We can send letters, emails, and postcards to our representatives urging them to continue funding libraries through the National Endowment for the Arts.
- We can volunteer at our local libraries. If we work for companies that offer a Matching Gifts Program, we can make the most out of our volunteer time and/or donations. Volunteering can involve simply offering to help with basic tasks at the library, but we can also offer our knowledge and skills to teach a class or offer other community programs.
While Ivanka’s tweet may have been well-intentioned, we need to urge her to use her influence to help save our libraries’ funding. The 2018 budget seeks to eliminate the federal funding that makes many of our library programs and resources possible.
We need to speak up and make sure that we’re bringing attention to libraries right now before the budget is put to a vote.
Our libraries need us, even if all we do is show up and check out a book.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren