4 Reasons Why You Should Support Your Local Library

Photo: Samantha Marx

With municipalities struggling to stay afloat financially, public libraries are among the first institutions to feel the pinch.

At least 19 states have cut funding to community libraries in the last year according to the American Library Association. More than half reported reductions greater than 10%, and in many places, state-level cuts are compounded by similar cuts at the local level.

Increasingly, it's falling to local library boosters to cobble together funding and devote time and energy to keeping facilities open.

Perhaps the ease and ubiquity of technology has tempered your reliance on these long-cherished institutions. But local libraries continue to provide an array of key services to community members. (See also: Duh...Libraries)

Here are four reasons why you should consider supporting libraries.

They Spur Economic Investment

It might sound strange to think of libraries as an investment, but studies indicate they're crucial economic engines. A Univeristy of Pennsylvania study found that the Philadelphia library created more than $30 million worth of economic value for the city in fiscal year 2010. A key stat among the findings — nearly 9,000 businesses wouldn't have been started or nurtured without resources respondents first acquired at the Free Library of Philadelphia. “Until now, there hasn’t been a way to know exactly how much we help in dollars and cents,” FLP President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon said in a news release. “We’re an integral economic engine for the city of Philadelphia.”

They Help People Find Jobs

Public libraries offer a suite of free resources to help unemployed or under-employed citizens find gainful employment. Free classes boost education or even teach people how to craft a resume or prepare for an interview. Free Internet access and computer usage allows people to hunt for jobs, interact with potential employers, and prepare applications.

They Help Working Women

Women are far more likely than men (72% versus 58%) to have visited a library in the last year, according to the ALA. Working women, working mothers, and women aged 18 to 54 are the most likely to fall in that group. Those same demographics are also likely to have a library card.

They Open Doors to Education and Entertainment

Public libraries host free book clubs and movie nights, and even have passes for local museums so that card holders can avoid entrance fees. They offer free or inexpensive computer courses, language courses, writing courses, and even after-school learning programs for children.

Public libraries are an economic and social lifeline for millions of Americans, and there are myriad ways to help libraries, from making donations to writing letters of support to elected officials.

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Guest's picture

Great Article! I am a huge fan of the local library. I actually check out audiobooks all the time for my 2 plus hour commute every day. I could not imagine how many thousands of dollars I have saved through the library over the years, but it is more than I want to think about.

Guest's picture
L. Ann

What many don't know about their local library is all the free programs/classes they offer. Depending upon your location, you are likely to find free computer classes, language classes, book clubs, story and activity times for children/teens, and more. Inquire at the information desk. Some libraries offer print and/or e-mailed monthly newsletters.

Guest's picture
Leigh Anne

Thank you for this great article on the value of public libraries. I'm writing this from my station at the reference desk. So far this shift I've helped students find books on science digital filmmaking, as well as helped other people print documents they need for work and school. There are a lot of people here jobhunting, either on our computers or on their laptops (free wireless is yet another perk we offer). Earlier today I worked on the script for one of our resume-writing classes, decided what new books to purchase for my department this week, and proofread some articles for our daily blog that keeps our patrons informed of all the great things we do. If you haven't been to your local library lately, stop by and say hi - you might be pleasantly surprised at all the things we can do for you, even -- perhaps especially - in a digital age.

Annie Mueller's picture

LOVE our local library. Going there tonight with the family, actually. We save hundreds of dollars - I am an avid reader, my husband is a music & audiobook fiend, and my kids get to check out "new" movies every week: FREE. Though we do support them monetarily in late fees... ha.

Guest's picture

Right On!

Another reason to support your library: it gives kids a place to go after school. I live in what most people would term a poor neighborhood. One place that's guaranteed to be a safe haven, have computer access for homework, and air conditioning on miserably hot days is the local library. For every kid in the library in my neighborhood, that's one more kid who's not in a gang.

There are many ways to support your public library. You can donate money or your time or your books. Ask at your local branch how you can help out.

My New Year's Day tradition is to host a book swap at my house every year. People bring the books they enjoyed, throw them on a communal pile, and take what they want home. The leftovers are donated to the library. People love this.

Instead of buying books, I also donate $300 or whatever I would have spent on my reading to the library every year. I don't have book clutter in my house and my favorite authors still get a little help from the library purchases.

Guest's picture

Excellent article, it is crazy how so many of us take our local library for granted. In times of need it is the first place I go for information and entertainment. For example, when my internet reception goes out or my printer dies on me, I know I can quickly run to the library to connect to the internet or use their printers to print out whatever I need for free. It is also a great place to take kids on a rainy day and teach them to appreciate the art of reading books. I don't know a little kid who doesn't feel special the day they receive their first library card. It's the same feeling a teen gets when they finally get their first driver's license. It's like a key to a whole new world.

Guest's picture

One of the few places that I have appreciated since I was 5 years old is the public library. Its richness and calmness are qualities that I have always taken for granted, but I am always surprised by how few people appreciate this wonderful resource!