By Courtney Runn
Libraries are a lifeline to their communities. With free WiFi, technology, programming, and—of course—books, they’re also a refuge for many. Libraries not only support reading skills but also equip vulnerable populations like the formerly incarcerated with the tools necessary to learn technology and find jobs, narrowing gaps in internet literacy as well as actual literacy.
In The Library Book, Susan Orlean beautifully sums up their function: “All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.”
Despite being closed during the pandemic, libraries have continued to provide key community resources and offer hope during a dark time. To ensure all libraries can keep serving their communities and allowing space for people to hear and share stories, the American Library Association (ALA) is launching its annual #FundLibraries Campaign to make sure libraries are fully funded in the upcoming fiscal year.
For the 2022 budget, ALA is urging Congress to invest $206 million in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and $50 million in the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grants. These grants ensure essential library services like STEM programs, business development, WiFi and technology access, literacy resources, and more are available to the 116,000-plus public, academic, and government libraries across the country.
If your local library has made a difference in your life or you value the difference it’s making for others, ALA offers a variety of ways you can join in their annual campaign—and teach your kids about advocacy. This post will share how to support libraries through easy actions you can take as a family.
Visit Your Local Library
While it might seem like an obvious step, using your local library is one of the best ways to support it. While many libraries are currently not open for indoor browsing because of COVID, take advantage of online reservations for curbside pickup and the option to borrow digital books. Plus, many libraries have additional programming to encourage kids to read, like crafts and activities you can do at home, virtual events, and reading challenges.
Support Your Library on Social Media
We’ll support extra screen time if it means advocating for literacy! According to ALA, “vocal community support helps libraries secure much-needed funding”—and it shows some much-needed love to your librarians. Follow your local library on social media and, during National Library Week from April 4 to 10, use the hashtag #MyLibraryIs to share how your library has made a difference in your life.
To support federal funding for libraries, post with the hashtag #FundLibraries and use one of ALA’s suggested captions. Here are a few ideas to get your kids involved and spark their creativity:
- Interview your kids about why they love their local library and their favorite books. And then flip the script and let them interview you.
- Challenge your kids to a photo scavenger hunt and post your family’s favorite literacy-themed picture.
- Play dress-up together by each dressing up as a favorite literary hero or heroine.
As a reminder, only post videos and pictures of your kids with their consent!
Write to Your Members of Congress
Model civic participation by helping your kids write a letter, asking your members of Congress to support library funding. Letter writing is a literacy-boosting activity for kids of all ages. It encourages creativity, builds communication skills, expands vocabulary, and—in the case of snail mail—offers handwriting practice. Writing is also an advocacy tool and an easy way to empower your children to advocate for causes they care about.
Use an online template to draft a letter, and then, once it’s ready to go, ALA makes it easy with an online form so you can directly reach out to your state’s representatives without tracking down each office’s contact information. In addition to encouraging members to support funding, ALA suggests inviting them to attend a library tour. A virtual tour allows librarians to share why funding is crucial and build a relationship with potential library allies. (Before suggesting a tour, make sure to first coordinate with your library to make sure it’s a possibility.)
After your kids send their letter, keep the conversation going and encourage them to continue practicing this new advocacy tool. If you have an elementary schooler or preschooler, explore topics they might care about with picture books for an age-appropriate introduction to different causes. (You can start with our roundup of books on water conservation!)
Let us know in the comments how your family is advocating for library funding. What causes are your kids passionate about supporting?