It’s the second week of April, which means it’s National Library Week! If you didn’t know that was even a thing, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But I promise I didn’t just make it up off the top of my head. It’s real.
In the early 1950s, a partnership between publishers and the American Library Association formulated the idea of taking a specific week and using it to jointly promote literacy. The brainchild of that particular think tank was National Library Week. It was first celebrated in the late 1950s, although I have seen different years in different historical account publications so there might be some discrepancy on when it “officially” began.
Why April? It’s already School Library Month (which I still didn’t know was a thing until I read a press kit about NLW). And since NLW began, the second week has become about more than just promoting literacy, it’s also about celebrating the people who promote it all year long. National Library Workers Day is Tuesday of this week. National Bookmobile Day is Wednesday of this week. And just for good measure, I’ll also point out that Thursday of this week is Support Teen Literature Day.
It’s a busy week.
I have seen signs around our library in the past about NLW, but never paid that much attention to it. But this year, I joined the volunteer group that helps raise extra funds for our local library and also works some of the events our branch hosts. Our head librarian came to talk to us about NLW and some of the special programming they had lined up for it.
In a day and age where federal library funding is being ripped to shreds, funding at the state level is being threatened (or in my state, demoralized), and ebooks are so accessible to so many–but not all–you might start to wonder why even fight it anymore. I don’t. Because every week, sometimes more than once a week, I visit my local library and I notice people.
- The same high school kid who is always at the computer bank doing his homework. He doesn’t have internet at home, but he lives close enough to walk to the library after school.
- The accountant helping people prepare their tax forms free of charge. He helps anyone who shows up on the days he’s there, but he gives anyone over sixty-five first priority.
- The mom in scrubs who is studying a textbook while watching her children out of the corner of her eye.
- The young woman who has a new student with her every few weeks for a tutoring session. Her wards always leave looking like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
- The busload of kids from a local daycare who get a special storytime each week just for them.
- The local chess club that boasts members of almost all ages.
- A monthly meeting of a STEM club that challenges 8-12-year-old kids to learn coding and robotics.
- Classes being held on gardening, cooking, genealogical research, nutrition, etc.
- Game nights for adults who would like to meet more people in the community, but don’t enjoy going to bars or clubs.
- Book launches. I’ve seen local authors being promoted by our library as if they were family. “You should come to see her at the launch party! She’s been coming in for years and now we’re going to display her book right over here! Isn’t it exciting?”
There is so much more. A library is more than just a collection of books, though I think that is still a beautiful thing. A library is an opportunity, a community, and a safe place. So stop by yours sometime this week and celebrate all the reasons why libraries are still important.