How Libraries Can Become Public Educational Hubs
Libraries are no longer just book lenders; they have become centers for community education in a variety of ways. Librarians and libraries are putting great effort into designing and implementing programs customized to their community’s unique needs, and the results continue to be positive. Here are a few ways that libraries can become public educational hubs.
Teach Computer Literacy Courses
With two-thirds of U.S. public libraries reporting they are the only provider of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities, it’s no wonder 89 percent provide formal or informal technology training as well.
Computer Literacy courses include instruction in everything from basic computer and software skills to building a website and learning code. Libraries like the Houston Public Library understand the importance of a vast variety of such free courses for their community. One major benefit is that the learners develop skills that make them more hirable.
Provide Outreach to Immigrants
In places like New York City, where more than one-third of the 8.3 million population is made up of immigrants, language literacy classes are becoming so popular libraries are having trouble meeting the demands. Libraries have become safe and effective gathering places and resources for immigrants needing help learning English and computer skills. Libraries also help immigrants with job applications, filling out government forms, and more.
In a 2011 Harris Poll National Quorum, ninety-four percent of library users agreed that “Because it provides free access to materials and resources, the public library plays an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.”
Create Programming for Young Readers
With initiatives from the Association for Library Service to Children, such as Every Child Ready to Read, libraries across the country are focusing on storytelling and advocacy for young readers. This particular program provides example storytelling at the library and works to educate caregivers on how they can best encourage early literacy at home with simple everyday activities. Libraries are educational hubs for children as much as they are for teens and adults.
Host Job Fairs
Libraries are often coordinators and hosts of job fairs for the communities they serve, and this free resource is extremely helpful during times of personal or community-wide economic hardships. Librarians don’t just stop at hosting job fairs; they often help users find and fill out job applications online as well.
Provide Access to Trained Information Professionals
Librarians are directly accountable to the public they serve and, while some argue librarians are not needed, the American Library Association’s President Roberta Stevens says it best: “Good decisions depend on good information. Machines can never replace the expertise of library staff.” As trained information professionals, who often hold a Master’s degree in library science, librarians are some of the most reliable resources in a world that is continually relying on technology. Librarians are leaders in information, both digital and print, and provide specialized knowledge within their communities.
In the words of Professor Robert Putnam, “People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there.” Public libraries are so much more than places to borrow books — they are educational hubs that play an essential role in the communities they serve.
For more information, please visit librarysciencedregree.usc.edu.