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How Public Libraries Transform Lives and Communities

Photo: Courtesy of Eliabe Costa

Libraries have always played an invaluable role in my life, and I’m not alone.

Knowledge is power

Billions take advantage of free resources offered by our nation’s libraries each year. My earliest library memory is of San Antonio Public Library’s summer reading program.  That summer I learned that knowledge is power.   

Each trip to the library pulled me deeper into a world of opportunities, paving the way for my role as the president of the world’s largest and oldest library association – the American Library Association. 

My story is not unique. Indeed, libraries provide the foundation for literacy and transform lives through education and lifelong learning. I have witnessed job-seekers secure employment opportunities by using free library resources and the expertise of librarians.  

In their early literacy services, libraries build children’s confidence by providing parents and caregivers with free story hours and book clubs. Last year libraries circulated more than 2.4 billion items, more than 34 percent of them were children’s materials.

A plethora of resources

It’s not just books making the difference in children’s lives. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2011 only 32 percent of American eighth grade students performed at or above the proficient level in science. Libraries benefit STEM learners by introducing underrepresented learners to important concepts and skills, including authentic scientific practices.

Adult learners also find support at libraries.  Libraries transform lives through programs such as Project Read, which helps English-speaking adults improve basic skills, Literacy Link, which teaches reading and writing skills to functionally illiterate adults, and the American Dream Starts @ your library, which improves literacy services for adult English language learners.

You don’t have to read between the lines to see the essential relationship between libraries and literacy. It is as simple as A, B, and C.

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