BY VIRGINIA ROBERTS
Rhinelander District Library Director
Spring rains, or more snow; time to renew your fishing license and yard clean up, provided the snow has melted; the beginning of a winning Brewers baseball season (hey, why not? The Cubs did it!); National Poetry Month, School Library Month, and National Library Week!
And it is important to support libraries. Really, it is.
Let’s start with the frequently and repeatedly cited statistic students in schools with librarians achieve more highly than schools without librarians on staff (School and Library Impact Studies, lrs.org, 1999-2013). This impact is seen Elementary to University. A place of education requires an information navigator for so many reasons. Our school and college librarians are critical to the development of our children, teens, and adults, and are partners in the work the public library does, and in the community.
One of my favorite memories is giving a tiny human his first library card and watching him jump up and down as if you had told him he was going to Disney. Librarians are excited to see a child pick out their first book to be read to them—and then they keep coming until they can read books themselves.
Sometimes, the adult they are with (and there is no shame in this, I promise) learns to read too. I won’t even go into the thrill of a child who achieves their 1,000 books before kindergarten—you’ll have to ask them—and Children’s Department staff. We enjoy seeing teens come here every day (after growing up here—or by recent discovery) to study, play chess, select stuff, or come to the monthly Card Play. And, as I have frequently experienced, it takes a library to raise a child. During the school year, all you have to do is come by when the Children’s Department is hosting a no-school day movie, author, or science event as they did over spring break or just a few days ago and see the wonder and fun. Also, librarians help folks obtain job skills, and then apply for jobs or create a business plan! Libraries give everyone the freedom to discover other languages, music, lands, and worlds—and then, go there, or in some cases, build them!
Call and write your Representatives on every government level and tell them how you use your library. Libraries are frequently underfunded, and often, those who have political offices misunderstand what libraries do for communities. Yes, there are books. But there are also computers; one-on-one tech assistance; weekly programs for the youngest to the oldest; film screenings; book clubs; game days, writing workshops; art creation—and art celebrations. Librarians don’t just check books out, with the help of donors we are able to give them away like during annual Free Comic Book Day! There is computer, information and reading literacy help available. Rhinelander District Library isn’t just the building; library staff travels to schools, assisted living facilities, and other locations to do the abovementioned—and more.
RDL, like all libraries, serves everyone, from the time they are small to their golden years—empowering those who need information to finding it on their own—with assistance, broadband computer access, lifelong learning and workforce development, and as a community center for everyone to learn, grow, relax, and enjoy.
By now you must realize librarians celebrate libraries and all the good things that happen here all the time. National Library Week is really a chance for you, who use libraries to take stock of what libraries mean to you and for those of you who don’t to become familiar with all libraries have to offer on and off-line all the time.
How might you do this? Whether you visit your public library all the time or have never set foot in the place, there are ways to quickly become familiar and involved in Your Library: come to library programs, meet an author or learn a new skill—participate in a discussion; take a tour; join the Friends—and volunteer with programs, book sales, and other things the library does in and outside the building; make a donation to the RDL Foundation and see your contribution become part of the materials collection or the building to benefit others; buy a Love Your Library t-shirt or a gently used book. And yes, please do call your government representatives and tell them your library story—or that of your parents, children or friends. It’s important to the future of libraries, communities, and generations to come.