Promoting Public Libraries
June 11, 2014

Promoting Public Libraries

Regularly, I have the discussion with students about how to complete research. And regularly, students have never used a library to do research, or really to do anything. Every time I have this discussion, I am shocked, saddened, and a little worried. As a kid and even into adolescence, the school library and the public library were so much a part of my life that I often spent more time at libraries than I did anywhere else. I would check out books, take part in library activities, and just enjoy being around other book lovers. Plus, when all else failed, my parents sent me to the library to take part in some seminar, class, festival, or event otherwise. Yes, the public library was my third home next to school and my actual house.

Recently, the Pew Research Internet Project researched library usage and knowledge. Pew Research asked questions of 6,224 Americans ages 16 and older in September 2013. As part of that project, they created and have released a library quiz for anyone to take. The quiz identifies what kind of library user the person taking the quiz is and then breaks that down.

The quiz took me less than five minutes and consisted of 21 questions. With no surprise, when I took the quiz, it determined that I am a Library Lover. The questions varied in content from where I live (e.g. City, Suburb of a City, Small City or Town, et cetera) to how often I, personally, use my public library or public library website. The quiz even asked if I knew where my closest public library was and what condition the building was in. Afterwards, the quiz calculated my answers and provided me an in-depth comparison of my answers to the answers of the general public according to that original September 2013 research project.

Public libraries provide more than just books although, naturally, the books are probably its most important mission. The focus that libraries should have on promoting literacy and inspiring a love of reading is one that we must continue. Public libraries are often the places where kids fall in love with creativity and reading and writing. They provide all an opportunity for growth. Public libraries also provide safe places for groups to meet and a public location for different programs from arts and crafts to literacy to storytelling and classes that provide other opportunities. Let’s not forget that for many community residents, the public library may be their only access to computers, as well.

I cannot tell how many festivals, classes, lectures, and just general activities I have attended at my local public libraries throughout the years. Even now, I check to see what events are taking place at my own public library and the public libraries in my surrounding communities. Some of my favorite events are when authors come to give readings to the local community. They regularly follow with a question-and-answer session, which always inspire me. Sometimes authors will pair their readings with workshops to help inspire burgeoning writers and provide advice for all writers. I love these activities. It is through many of these events that I have met writers from all walks of life who write in many different genres and who have experiences that inspire me. I have also met publishers and agents and just learned about writing and reading in general.

Yes, public libraries are important. First and most important is their focus on literacy and promoting a love for reading, but a close second is the access they provide to their patrons. We must not forget to support our local libraries and to promote libraries to all, most especially to children. Libraries can be the conduits to imagination, inspiration, and involvement.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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