Cover Image by Freepik

In this week’s Princh Library Blog post, guest writer Sam L. Bowman dives into some of the ways libraries build and embody their communities; from educating their community to helping them out in a crisis. Enjoy!

In today’s evolving digital era, with information quickly available at a keystroke, the relevance of brick-and-mortar libraries has come into question. However, libraries are not relics of the past; instead, they are the backbone of stronger, more engaged communities. While traditional libraries are repositories of knowledge, they are also vibrant community hubs that foster education, promote collective well-being, and nurture inclusivity. Let’s examine libraries’ pivotal role in positively impacting and strengthening their respective communities.

The Role of Libraries in Community Education

Libraries play a role in education by ensuring everyone has access to a wealth of knowledge regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. Learners of all ages and backgrounds can use these facilities to educate themselves.

A library is a center of lifelong learning, and aside from providing various books to the public, they are also locations that offer lectures, seminars, and workshops that ignite curiosity and cultivate a culture of continuous education. Many libraries assist the public in learning about and navigating life complexities, including housing needs and the healthcare system. Librarians can assist members in finding and contacting healthcare facilities, learning about mental health wellness, locating specialized doctors, and helping them make appointments.

This effort is vital for people who need support to overcome their fear of seeing a doctor. Many people experience anxiety related to medical appointments for fear of diagnosis, judgment, and cost. With the non-judgmental assistance of a librarian, these individuals can overcome their stress and anxiety through easily accessible education and a supportive ear.

On-demand Demo with Princhy

Learn the key aspects of Princh! Watch our on-demand demos at your convenience and see what makes Princh such a simple solution. Watch our demos here.

Libraries as Centers of Social Connection

The importance of community libraries extends beyond shelves of books and educational resources. They are cores of cultural diversity and inclusivity and offer safe spaces for community gatherings. Libraries offer meeting rooms and event spaces for various groups, from book clubs to art shows, which unite individuals in sharing their passions and perspectives. Engaging in these activities creates a sense of belonging within the community and empathy for others.

Inclusivity in libraries applies to all comers. Seniors can attend events and make new friends, helping to prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation. Teenagers can meet in specific spaces to study, socialize, and learn about each other. New mothers can connect with other moms during baby story-times. In these ways, libraries serve as a beacon of community-building connections.

Libraries as Innovators of Local Development

Libraries are uniquely positioned to contribute to local economic development. They have a long history of serving local entrepreneurs and businesses. One way libraries serve as entrepreneurial centers is by providing business support and resources for people starting or running their businesses.

For example, the Austin Public Library offered a program called “Book a Librarian,” where people could make an appointment to receive help with business tasks such as creating a business plan and market research. The library also offered workshops on digital marketing, SEO best practices, and using Excel for data analysis. In these ways, libraries are the heartbeat behind supporting local business development.

Libraries are also small businesses in themselves, and they keep the local economy humming by being local employers. Young people are hired to run kids’ summer reading groups, and librarians and clerical employees are community residents who come to know their patrons personally. These members spend their money in the area, helping to build other local businesses, making their contribution to community economies vital.

Libraries and Economic Resilience

Nearly 90 percent of public libraries offer services to job seekers, thereby making libraries a critical access point for the labor market. Many libraries have services to assist community members in identifying available job positions, accessing online employment databases, creating resumes, and completing online job applications.

Some libraries also cultivate skills and qualifications by providing training programs for specific career fields; for example, New York City libraries train social workers, security guards, and home health aids and offer Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction certification. These facilities also play an essential role in providing one-on-one assistance with resumes and job applications for people experiencing homelessness in the community.

The library is also there for employed patrons who want to advance their education and improve their job skills. Many companies encourage and support continued learning in their employees as further learning builds confidence, develops new skills, improves employee retention, and strengthens brain health. These companies can partner with their community library to provide continuing educational opportunities for current and prospective employees, such as workshops and seminars.

Employees can learn to fill skill gaps, such as generational shifts and technological advancements. In these ways, community libraries can work alongside local companies to strengthen hiring pools, help employees stay current with industry trends, and positively impact the socioeconomic circumstances of the community as a whole.

Libraries in Times of Crisis

When natural disasters occur, the local library saves the day. Libraries enhance community resilience in the face of crisis, particularly in areas of communication and information. Many libraries function as information assistance centers during disasters, allowing the community to communicate with loved ones through free Wi-Fi in and outside the building. This access is crucial, especially for neighborhoods in need where many members do not have internet access.

In times of crisis, libraries also serve the people in these ways:

  • Creating community contact centers;
  • Staffing shelters in the library buildings;
  • Housing city command centers;
  • Responding to information inquiries;
  • Distributing supplies and food;
  • Providing facilities to recharge electronic and communication devices;
  • Assisting with insurance, financial aid, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claims.

Libraries are a trusted pillar of any community, especially in an emergency. It is a safe, open location that draws people to it for shelter, company, and assistance in dangerous times.

Libraries are Community

Libraries do more than build community —  they are the community. Rather than a symbol of the past, libraries are active social entities that help people learn and prepare for the future. By providing essential access to resources and information, libraries support education and literacy while serving as a critical community gathering space.

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

Want more insights from libraries across the world?

Subscribe to our blog to receive new library insights directly to your e-mail.

Sam L. Bowman

Sam writes about people, community, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local library.

Recent posts

205, 2024