Friday, October 19, 2012

Are libraries a waste?

Sometimes, it seems as if we are speaking out of both sides of our mouth:
Education is important . . . wait, no it's not.
Children/Teens are important . . . wait, no they're not.
Here's the deal, we send messages - big, huge, cultural messages - to our children by what we choose to put our money behind.  You remember the old adage, do what I say not as I do.  But the truth is, today's youth see what we do and they are getting our message loud and clear!!!

Case in point, Senator Coburn (R, OK) recently put together a look as wasteful government spending in a document called The Waste Book 2012.  We all know there is a lot of wasteful spending in the government, this is not news.  In fact, I would argue that our elected public officials (aka PUBLIC SERVANTS) receiving 6 or more figure salaries is a form of wasteful spending, but I digress.  Some of the spending that was highlighted included library spending for tween and teen programming.  The money came from a grant.  One example was a Star Wars Reads program that had over 100 people in attendance and cost $365.  This is approximately $4.00 per person, if you round up.  That's not a bad deal at all.  And I for one think that our children are worth $4.00 a head. Read the full report here.  Read the District Dispatch from ALA here.
What's the value of library programming?

  • It encourages tweens and teens to visit and learn how to use their libraries
  • Almost all programming has a literacy component and can be tied into collections
  • Star Wars programs encourage math, science, diversity, and socialization skills - to name a few
  • Library programming supports and encourages a 40 Developmental Assets approach to youth empowerment and community improvement. The 40 Developmental Assets are proven to decrease at risk behaviors and increase beneficial behaviors.
  • Any type of programming that promotes tweens and teens getting active in their communities also takes them off of the streets and promotes constructive use of time
The list can go on, actually, but I think we can all see the value in tween and teen programming in libraries.  Public libraries (and school libraries) are ESSENTIAL to healthy kids, healthy communities, healthy democracy and healthy futures.
Library programming can't happen for free
Your most basic cost for programming is usually never even accounted for: staff time.  Library staff must spend time researching the components of a program, putting together publicity materials, promoting said program, purchasing materials, setting up, hosting the program and then cleaning up afterwards.  We put our heart and soul (and sometimes our own time and money) into providing quality, competitive programming for our patrons.  And yes, it has to be competitive and our biggest competition is often electronic.
Outside of staff, supplies are needed.  You just can't have a program without them.  And supplies can be expensive - technology, craft supplies or after school snacks all cost money.  Tweens and teens come to the library not only hungry for knowledge, but sometimes just down right hungry.  In order for good learning to take place, tweens and teens can not be distracted by hunger.

Take a look at our Star Wars Reads Day program
Between our two branches we had over 100 participants in attendance.  We talked science and math, we read books, and we spent our time creatively engaged in ways that were beneficial to our tweens and teens and gave them something meaningful to do on a Saturday afternoon.
Here's what you can do!
This next part comes from a call to action from ALA so please help us spread the word
Library Workers & Advocates,
Senator Coburn (R, OK), says that a $365 library program for teens is a waste of government spending! He needs to hear from you and your library’s supporters that this is absolutely not true! Please Tweet, email or call him today and encourage others to do so! You can read about the details of what he said here:
Send him a Tweet:
@TomCoburn a $365#library prgrm 2 teach teens the science behind Star Wars is a great investment! Teens learn#STEM & have a safe place 2 b
Send him an email (via his web site’s form
Senator Coburn,
It is simply not right to include a $365 library program in your 2012 Wastebook. A program that teaches teens the science behind Star Wars is a great way for teens to learn critical STEM skills and to expose them to the great resources that their library has to offer. The Afterschool Alliance says that 8 in 10 Americans want all children and teens to have some type of organized activity or safe place to go after school, and library programs like these meet that need. I hope you will agree with me that $365 is a tiny but wholly worthwhile investment in our country’s future. In fact, the nation’s 42 million teens need more funds for programs like these. I hope that you will take action to ensure America’s teens have access to great library and afterschool programs that help them prepare for a productive life after high school. This week the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is celebrating Teen Read Week, and thousands of libraries, including mine, are hosting events to get more teens reading for leisure, because studies show that reading for fun helps students achieve more in school. Please join YALSA and my library in celebrating. It’s an easy way to show that you care about the education, welfare and safety of the nation’s 42 million teens and their families.
Phone him: (202) 224-5754
The above information was distributed by the ALA
Get active locally!
Read and share
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper and let them know that you support all that your local library does for your community.
  • Write to your local school and public library administrators and let them know that you appreciate the role of libraries in your child's education and community and let them know that you support libraries.
  • Share your positive library thoughts and experiences on your various social media sites.
  • Visit your library often, and let them know how much you appreciate what they do.
  • Find out if your library accepts donations - either money or books - and then donate.
  • If your library has a Friends group, join and participate.
  • If your local library has an issue on the ballot, vote to support your library. 
Public libraries support education, recreation and democracy for all members of all communities.  Support yours today.
Please leave a comment letting us know that you don't think libraries are a waste!


  1. Thanks so much for this important article! I'd love to repost it on my blog Library Lions -- sometime soon and link it back here to TLT. Library Lions roars about school and public libraries and thier outstanding youth programs. It's frightening to see that our libraries are so undervalued. Meanwhile, I'm sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter. Onward!

    1. I am glad that people are getting the word out, thank you! It is important that people understand how vital a resource libraries are. Karen

  2. Well stated! I was a participant at the event in question, and the librarian called me tonight to tell me about Coburn's list. I was one of the volunteer costumed characters. We showed up and gave our own time, freely, to help promote the event and encourage kids to read and use their libraries. It was a great event, and money well spent. The worn of Abington, like many others, has been struggling, and the Star Wars day was one of the most well attended events they have ever had.