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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gifts We've Been Given

'Tis the season of gifts, and US public libraries were just given a couple of big ones.

I'll tell you about the 2nd gift first—the gift of a headline. A commentary magazine called The Atlantic published an online article on December 13 with this title: "Public Libraries Are Better Than Congress, Baseball, and Apple Pie, Say Americans."

Take another look at that powerful headline:
"Public Libraries Are Better Than Congress, Baseball, and Apple Pie." What better gift could libraries be given at this time when budgets are being cut? Granted, it's not too hard to be more highly regarded than Congress these days, but—beating baseball and apple pie, those two American icons? That says libraries are amazingly awesome!

We need all the help we can get to convince others that the internet is no replacement for libraries, so having that message in a respected magazine really is a gift. But, as with the gift of love, or of a bright flame, it's nothing unless we share it with others. So now, it's up to each one of us to share that gift with everyone we know. (Not just with fellow library people—with everyone.) Post it on all of your professional and personal social media accounts. Email a link to the head of your newspaper, magazine, radio station, or TV channel and invite them to do a local follow-up story.

Now, for the 1st gift: The info that enabled this "Better Than Baseball" piece came from a study by the good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report, "How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities," includes convincing data about how important citizens feel their libraries are. And when you can tell politicians, who want to be popular, that a majority of people find library services either "very important" or "somewhat important," that can sway votes.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is like Santa Claus: Year after year, it gives us perfect gifts. I mean, what better to give librarians than a nice package of well-crafted data from a trustworthy source? You know that's exactly what you always want. Now you can open it, play with it, and share it with your friends & family. (If you care about library funding, you're kind of obliged to do so.)

So thank you, Santa-Pew, for delivering data that can help save libraries. And thank you, Robinson Meyer, for writing the article with the bold headline that we can show to all the naysayers and funders who think that nobody uses libraries anymore. And thank you, Atlantic editors, for publishing the article free online so it's easy to share.

Now, readers, will you do your part? Will you spread this data and headline far and wide? (Remember: It could affect whether you have a job next year or not.) Let's work together, across the country, to use the gifts we've been given. Thank you, in advance, for supporting libraries. May we all prosper in 2014, and far beyond.


Peggy Barber said...

Kathy...You blog message is a also a great gift....made even greater by your insistence that we share the ATLANTIC headline beyond the library family. THANK YOU!!

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Thanks for saying so, Peggy!

Too often we only share our great stories and statistics with each other -- which is worthless (aside from building our egos). With so many sources of info, people will go elsewhere unless they understand how libraries are different / better than other services.