While libraries have recently been labeled as irrelevant in the digital age, this is not the case. Many libraries are adjusting with the times and incorporating technology into the services they offer. Some innovative examples include adding “an area where patrons of all ages can try out the [3D] printers, dabble in computer coding or work individually, or collaboratively, to create DIY technology,” “hosting job fairs and job training in partnership with community and state agencies,” providing “access to more than 800 free online noncredit courses”, and more. A volunteer at a library in Trumbull explains, “Libraries have always been a central place for people to come together to get informed. It's a natural progression of what libraries have always done.”
Yet libraries are often overlooked as community and cultural centers, and their funding gets cut as a result. According to the American Library Association, “Libraries of all kinds need money. The amount of funding that a library receives directly influences the quality of its services. While the majority of funding for libraries comes from state and local sources, federal funding provides critical assistance, giving libraries across the country the financial support they need to serve their communities.”
The Observer speaks of the potential long-term consequences of low library funding in New York: “Cutting $37 million from the library budget-part of a citywide financial assault on the arts-will cripple one of the city’s engines for rising out of this crisis, and smother one of the wellsprings of New York’s greatness.” Another article warns of what will be lost as a result of budget cuts as well: “The busy Queens system serves about 50,000 people a day. Many customers use the free computers to hunt for jobs, while kids crowd libraries to do their homework. New immigrants use the libraries for language and citizenship classes. Staffers pointed out that libraries are an important safe haven for kids who have no place to go after school.”
Nonprofits can help counter injustices in funding, however. There are nonprofits that exist to represent libraries when budgets are being made locally and federally. There are also organizations that spend their own time and money putting together programs that are held in libraries, fighting to benefit the community in spite of funding cuts that might otherwise limit what the library can do. 4T’s is one such nonprofit who aims to be a useful resource to the community, especially to its youth. 4T’s offers workshops and panel discussions at the Countee Cullen Library. Look out for upcoming events here.
I hope that you will check out all that your local library has to offer as well as the nonprofits that help make it possible.
American Library Association
The Observer: Rescuing the Stacks
Daily News: Budget cuts forces Queens Library to shutter 14 branches, cut 300 workers and reduce hours
Public Libraries Online: Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library is the Most Important Place in Town
Hartford Courant: Libraries Are The New Community Centers, Town Greens
"Libraries are more than books and technology. Libraries build citizens. They educate individuals and foster thoughtful communities. They are essential components of communities—worth fighting for and worth funding.”