Reasons to Love Libraries | Editorial

It’s April, which means that in addition to celebrating spring’s arrival, I’ll be joining libraries across the nation in celebrating National Library Week.

Celebrating the many ways libraries transform lives

Hallie Rich head shotIt’s April, which means that in addition to celebrating spring’s arrival, I’ll be joining libraries across the nation in celebrating National Library Week.

National Library Week was introduced in the 1950s out of a concern that Americans were spending too much time with the latest technology—TV and radio—and less time reading. The American Library Association and American Book Publishers Council teamed up to boost interest in reading through a weeklong celebration of libraries.

Nearly 70 years later, libraries have evolved to embrace technology in supporting their goals around reading as well as community progress in areas such as workforce development, health literacy, and family engagement. In fact, much of what we celebrate during National Library Week relates to the ways libraries help their community members learn about and adopt new technologies—from school librarians enhancing classroom lessons with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology to public libraries offering drop-in mobile device support to academic librarians partnering with students and faculty on transformational digital scholarship.

In this issue, LJ explores two pressing issues in the technology landscape—streaming video (“Full Stream Ahead”) and artificial intelligence (AI) (“AI in Academia,” pp. 15-17)—and their respective effects on and relevance to libraries.

There’s no question that technology is integral to libraries—but, even more fundamentally, technology is essential to participation in modern life. This is why it’s so frustrating that progress toward universal broadband, the foundational connection that makes other applications possible, may face a major setback this month.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, one highly effective program helping keep Americans connected, is due to run out of funding. The ACP was introduced as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, offering a monthly discount on internet service to income-eligible households. The benefit has proven incredibly popular, with 23 million households subscribed. By one estimate, addressing broadband affordability through ACP will have a greater impact on the GDP than the tens of billions of dollars the United States has invested to expand digital infrastructure.

Libraries have been critical partners in driving ACP enrollments, bringing awareness to the program and helping people complete applications. Without renewed funding, vulnerable Americans will be forced to make tough choices between paying for broadband service or going without some other essential need. For libraries, it will likely mean increased demand for mobile hotspots and open hours to accommodate on-site Wi-Fi access.

As we come together in April to celebrate National Library Week, libraries can join the bipartisan groups of mayors, governors, and other civic leaders advocating for renewed funding for the ACP—recognizing the critical role of technology access in everything from literacy to public health.

We can also use it as a time to highlight the many ways that libraries make communities more resilient and better prepared for the future. This year, LJ is pleased to join our sister publication, School Library Journal, in the “Reasons to Love Libraries” (RLL) project.

Elevating stories about libraries empowering people and communities is what we do every day at LJ and SLJ. The RLL campaign is designed to engage the public and you, our library community, more directly in the process. To begin, we have downloadable templates to help you share #ReasonsToLoveLibraries stories on social media. More assets and ways to connect will be available throughout the year.

Whether the stories validate positive library reading experiences or present new examples of libraries transforming lives, they suggest that the goals of National Library Week, as stated in 1959, still ring true today: “Libraries work with and through all aspects of American life; strengthening them in home, school, college, and community will help Americans to read and be ready for whatever the future may bring.”

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Hallie Rich

Hallie Rich

Hallie Rich is Editor-in-Chief of Library Journal.

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