The importance of libraries in communities

Published 12:32 pm Monday, July 25, 2022

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By MEG HERNDON | Staff Writer

I grew up a library kid. My core childhood memories involve me being hidden away in the library’s nooks and crannies. I remember visiting the garden fountain just outside my mom’s office every summer and playing with the tadpoles.

My first interaction with a typewriter happened in that library. I remember being blown away by the backspace on it, it’s just a little piece of tape or something that makes it disappear.

Later in life, I worked in the archives department of a library as a student worker during college.

A year ago, I joined a book club at my local library to meet people and rediscover my love for discussing books.

Libraries are incredibly important, not just to me, but to the communities around them.

Not only are libraries free, but they also offer an abundance of information and resources to people who otherwise might not be able to access them.

During the summer, most local libraries have held or are still holding their summer reading programs. A consistent theme among most of them has been “Oceans of Possibilities,” and most can participate.

As the participants logged their reading, they gained prizes. Additionally, the library offered programs and activities throughout the challenge which encouraged families and people of all ages to come together.

As an avid reader, it’s been nice to see the programs and their success. At the risk of sounding insufferable: in an era where everyone, including myself, seems to be glued to technology. Seeing people of all ages put down their devices to read has been incredibly nice.

Seeing communities gather together again to celebrate knowledge and each other is a perfect way to bookend the summer.

Although I can take jabs at technology all I want, there has been a symbiotic relationship between print and digital entertainment forms.

In 2021, 825 million book copies were sold in the U.S., the highest number of copies sold since 2004 and a nine percent increase in copies sold since 2020. NPD BookScan which tracks the publishing market attributes some of this increase to social media and their various book niches, especially TikTok’s BookTok. With over 64.5 billion views, #BookTok is a community on the app that discusses latest reads, exciting future reads and just about anything book related.

Like everything, social media and technology have their pros and cons, and as much as TikTok can be seen as a detriment to society, it’s getting more people into reading, so I will give it and the creators on the platform some recognition.

But, it’s not just book sales that are important, it is also important to look at the fact that it appears library card sign-ups have been on the rise.

With e-readers becoming more and more popular, digital library catalogs and e-books are seeing an increase in use. OverDrive’s Instant Digital Card program has seen a 256 percent increase in signups in 2020, and over 500,000 new library cards were created through the program in the same year.

With OverDrive, users with library cards can check out e-books and read them from their devices for free.

This increase was definitely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it no doubt introduced more people to all the resources libraries have.

As we reach the end of the summer reading season, support our local libraries that play an important role in our community’s education and development by signing up for a library card.