7 Reasons Why Libraries are Still Important in the 21st Century

7 Reasons Why Libraries are Still Important in the 21st Century

Feb 28, 2020Joey Cipriano

          Chances are you haven’t been in a library since you were either in high school or college, whether it was a school library or public. For many students who aren’t interested in sports or other extracurricular activities, libraries can be a haven where they can get away for a while in a quiet spot, surrounded by books and free internet.

          Though in the last few years, people have begun to question the usefulness of libraries with the invention of smart phones, wireless internet access, and powerful search engines such as Google, which provide instantaneous information about millions of subjects on demand. Smart assistants built into phones and devices, like Siri on Apple or Amazon’s Alexa, allow people to simply ask a question and be provided an answer almost instantly.

          But it can also be said that even in a world where information is literally available at our fingertips, the public does not seem more educated than they were before the internet. While we are all connected via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, these are not credible sources of information. They are not suitable places that perform research or find reliable, non-biased information. Yet, more and more people read and believe the various blogs and websites shared across the internet.

          For thousands of years, libraries have served billions of people by providing the information on various topics, from various sources, by various authors with various opinions. Librarians have taught millions to find credible and accurate sources of information so that people can form their own opinions and not have their minds made up for them.

          Libraries are still vital not only in terms of providing another educational center for young people and adults, but as a vital community center that brings people together. Here are some of the reasons why they still matter in the 21st century and why you and your children should use them more often.

Libraries are FREE TO USE

          Everyone loves free stuff and in a public library, mostly everything is free to use. Over the last twenty years, libraries have gone from offering more than just free access to books, newspapers, and periodicals. Many libraries now allow patrons to check out music, DVD and Blu-Ray movies, audio books, laptops, and tablets for short periods of time. All free of charge and all paid for with tax dollars you’ve already spent.

          Beyond physical things for borrowing, libraries offer free Wi-Fi, access to computers to browse the internet, free training programs and classes, and free access to online libraries and educational databases for research that often require a subscription. Thinking of looking up your family tree? Your local library may have access to a database you can use for free to find long lost relatives.

          The only thing required is a library card, which, coincidentally, is also free of charge. Most often, the few things that cost money at a public library are computer printouts and copying services. Printouts and copies are often just a few cents and cover the cost of purchasing more printing supplies.

Help for the Homeless and Refugees

          Homelessness is a major issue in many major metropolitan cities around the US. For many people facing the prospect of being homeless or already living on the streets, libraries offer a special type of shelter that offer them a plethora of services that a regular shelter can’t offer.

          Not only does a library provide physical shelter, it offers free Wi-Fi and access to computers to help people find jobs, employment centers, locations of places where they might find permanent or temporary lodging, or allow them to sign up for local resources where they may get assistance getting off the street.

          Local shelters often partner with local libraries in various communities to make getting access to these types of resources easier for those who need them. Beyond computer resources, libraries may even hold charity events where they encourage patrons to donate food, clothes, and other essentials to those who need them.

ESL Help and Language Classes

          Refugees and immigrants to the US often come into the country without being able to speak a word of English. Not being able to speak the native language of their new country will significantly hinder their ability to be able to provide for themselves or their families.     

          Luckily for them, libraries often hold free ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for people who want or need to learn to speak English properly. Additionally, part of a library’s electronic resources usually include access to online language learning courses where people can learn several languages at their own pace. Many libraries are also beginning to carry more books in different languages such as Spanish for those who want to read materials in their native language or keep their skills sharp.

          But libraries don’t just offer English classes. There are often free classes for people who want to learn a second or third language. Classes are usually based on the types of languages commonly found in the city or community, such as Spanish or Mandarin. Combined with the available online language learning courses, patrons can learn multiple languages for free.

Supporting Healthy Communities

          Most people might not consider a library where one goes for medical needs, but they have assisted many people finding in finding medical insurance, doctors offices, and general information on how stay healthy or make healthier choices.

          Libraries in less affluent areas may hold health fairs and bring in medical professionals to provide medical screenings for vision, diabetes, blood pressure or offer basic checkups for people who might not to be able to afford the cost of seeing a doctor.

          Some libraries may even take a more proactive approach to health and offer fitness classes for communities without a gym nearby. Things like Zumba or yoga or modified forms of exercise for elderly people who unable to do a rigorous workout.

Preservation of History and Local Culture

          One of the many common services offered by libraries is access to local newspapers and periodicals. Preservation of historical documents is a major responsibility undertaken by many libraries at great cost, even though many libraries are poorly funded. Newspapers allow younger generations to take a glimpse into the past an read the words of the writers and journalists of the time as they reported the news.

          Classic books no longer in print are also preserved by libraries and kept as reference materials which can’t be checked out. This includes books in their original printing versus so people can see the differences in the new editions.

Connecting Citizens to Their Community

          Since libraries are often a gathering spot for many residents in a community, it’s natural for city governments to use libraries as a perfect vessel for sharing important community information. They often provide information about city events, programs, or contact information for city services. Libraries in larger cities are often used as polling locations for local, state, or federal elections.

Librarians Encourage a Love for Reading

          Libraries are only as great as the librarians and staff who run them. Librarians are responsible for building and maintaining the library’s collection as well as improve it with the suggestions from patrons.

          One of their biggest responsibilities, however, is encouraging the love of reading, especially in children. Giving young people, and adults, an appreciation for books, reading, and learning is the goal for every librarian. They read up on new authors, new books, new technologies, and new programs aimed at helping their patrons and helping them to appreciate the love of books.

          The summer slump is a major problem in American schools. This is the term for the period in the summer when children aren’t learning and usually aren’t reading. Parents usually don’t have the time to motivate their children to learn or read, and children would much rather play games or hang out with friends instead of enjoying a book.

          With summer programs such as story time for young children, mini-comic book expositions, science experiment sessions, or concerts, young children continue to be stimulated and grow to have an appreciation for their local library.

          During the school year, libraries become another source for help with school especially with research and homework. After-school tutoring is usually offered daily at libraries.

Take Advantage of Libraries

          Many people don’t realize how much libraries offer beyond being able to borrow books and read newspapers. Libraries have evolved with the times and continue to make changes, even using limited funding. It’s important that people continue to use libraries, so governments continue to fund them properly.

          Beyond providing access to educational materials, libraries offer access to various additional resources and provide opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. They are often the heart of communities and safe havens for those in need who have no other place to go.

          Libraries have lasted thousands of years and no smartphone, search engine, or computer can ever replace the resourcefulness of a librarian or the reliability of a book.

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