Op-Ed for the Madison Public Library
This op-ed would be placed in a local newspaper (like the Isthmus) by the Madison Public Library as a broad appeal for donations during the holidays.
Dear Madison community members,
During the holidays, we at the Madison Public Library ask you to consider making any contribution you can to your local public library. You may be asking yourself: Why should I donate to the library? What can they do for me, now that I have my Kindle for reading and Google for research? With the advent of digital books, free online search engines, and almost ubiquitous usage of home computers, some are beginning to view libraries as obsolete. However, this is the view of those who are not fully aware of all of the services that our public libraries offers the community. Librarians participate in outreach activities, which include everyone from infants to senior citizens. We urge you to consider public libraries for your continued support, both through community activism and financial contributions, this holiday season.
Libraries are organizations that continue to address and solve community needs. One of the largest challenges facing public libraries today is how to best serve those who do not have home internet access. Having access to the internet is a vital part of being able to function in modern society: everything from social networking to job applications are done online. Even those who do have home internet are not always fully equipped to know how to use it. The library and librarians help to close the digital divide by providing computers and computer lessons for patrons. The digital divide refers to the inequality of access to technology; it can refer to simply not having a way to use the internet or not knowing how to properly use technology to your advantage. Libraries help to make technology accessible for all members of society.
In addition to helping those using the technological library services, librarians also protect the rights of all who use the library resources. After the Patriot Act passed, librarians strove to make sure that patron privacy rights were not violated. Librarians spoke out against policies that would allow federal agencies to have access to library records and patron information. This struggle continues today, as librarians negotiate with database suppliers. Databases frequently wish to monitor patrons’ usage of their sites and this is something that librarians have worked against allowing. Librarians play an active role in trying to maintain patron privacy on the internet and in library records. For example, many libraries have implemented a policy that circulation records are destroyed after they are no longer necessary. Librarians across America are putting protocols into place that will protect their patrons first amendment rights.
Outside of their work with technology, libraries still serve as a space for all in the community. For example, public libraries offer a wealth of programs that encourage early literacy. Early literacy is defined by the American Library Association as “the natural development of skills through the enjoyment of books”. Madison Public Libraries offer programs that teach parents how to apply early literacy skills to their parenting. Programs for children that are a little older involve encouraging school readiness; librarians work to help children practice skills that they are expected to know in school. By offering these services, libraries help children to appreciate learning and books even before they enter school. Another area that is currently of special consideration is helping the homeless population. In the recently built Madison Central Library, this concern was addressed by offering discreet places for the homeless to take a quick nap and store their belongings. The staff of Madison Public Libraries are working to help a group which is currently underserved.
In conclusion, public libraries offer a number of valuable services that can not be replaced by the growing popularity of technology. They offer access and lessons to those who are disadvantaged by the digital divide. In addition, librarians offer a variety of programs that help encourage early literacy, community involvement, and outreach to underserved populations. We need your support to help continue to fund all of these excellent programs; as more people recognize the advantages of the library, we are growing more and more. Circulation of materials of public library materials has actually increased in recent years and our library system is expanding to keep up with the demand. This holiday season, look to no further than a donation to your local Madison Public Library for a great way to contribute to your community.
Madison Public Library