Guess what? It’s National Library Week! What’s that? You don’t know about National Library Week? Each year in early April, the American Library Association designates a week to celebrate our nation’s libraries. That’s right! It is time to talk about how much we love our public, school, academic, and specialized libraries—even more than we usually do! This year, we celebrate from Sunday, April 3rd to Saturday, April 9th, so today’s installment of the JCLS Blog is dedicated to libraries everywhere and the communities they serve. 

Each year there is a theme for the week, and this year’s theme, “Connect with Your Library,” feels especially meaningful. Libraries are all about connection. We connect people to great books to read for fun and learning. We connect them to information that helps them answer their questions. We provide a connection to the internet, which can mean staying in touch with family and friends, finding job opportunities, benefits, and much more. We provide physical spaces and programming that foster connections between library users. We connect to community members outside the library walls by visiting schools and taking part in special events. We help people connect the dots and move toward building the lives and communities they dream of.  

For library folks, connection is what it is all about. The mission of Jackson County Library Services is to “connect people to information, ideas, and each other.” If you take a look at mission statements of libraries around the state and country, you’ll see the word “connect” again and again. It is a core value, and I’m delighted to see it centered in our National Library Week message this year. 

But how does one celebrate National Library Week? Great question. One of the best ways is to pay a visit to your library this week. Maybe even bring a friend who hasn’t been to the library in a while. Tell the people close to you why the library is important to you, and make sure they know that a library card is always free and that everyone who lives in Jackson County can get a card at our branches. If you are a regular library user, here’s your chance to turn someone else on to all the great things the library can do for them. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to bring people to the library, and that depends on people who are already in the know talking us up. We want everyone to make libraries a part of their lives. 

If you need some handy library facts to add to your library advocate elevator speech, here are a few I especially like: 

  • There are an estimated 116,867 libraries in the United States. That includes public, academic, school, corporate, medical, law, religious, military, and government libraries. So, if anyone tells you libraries are dying, they are wrong. 
  • About 16,568 of those libraries are public libraries, like JCLS, which provide free Wi-Fi and comfy chairs. That’s more locations than Starbucks has, and nobody will expect you to buy anything at the library. 
  • The Library of Congress has more than 170 million items in its collections and has about 838 miles of bookshelves. That’s almost as far as driving from Eugene to LA! It would take a long time to read all of those books! 

Here are a few more bits of information that may be more immediately relevant to the average library user (or potential future library user): 

  • A free public library card provides access to books, audiobooks, large-print books, magazines, DVDs, computers, e-books, downloadable audio books, streaming movies, an online language learning program, genealogy research tools, digital car repair manuals, and more things than I have room to list here. 
  • Through our Library of Things, you can borrow a set of books for a book club, a metal detector, an air fryer, an electric guitar, an inflatable dinosaur sprinkler, and many more practical and delightful items. 
  • Our libraries offer a wide array of free, fun, and educational events for all ages, including storytimes all over the county. 
  • Most of our libraries have public meeting room spaces that can be used for free. All you need is a library card to make a reservation. 
  • Our Outreach to Child Care team works with daycares and preschools around the county to supplement their books and other early literacy materials. They even visit child care sites to do special guest storytimes, which help our littlest community members gain the skills they will need when they are learning to read. 
  • JCLS has a program for people who can’t make it to the library due to age, illness, or disability, but would like to use our physical resources. Know someone who fits that description? They can contact At-Home Services and get on their wait list. 
  • If you or someone you know needs some extra support with technology, whether it is learning how to access e-books, how to use a new laptop, or how to use a phone for video chats, our Digital Services staff can help. Contact them for an appointment
  • We’re a large county, and while we have 15 branches, we know that many of our residents, especially in rural areas, don’t have a branch that is convenient to their daily routine. Our DART van helps fill the need for internet connection, technology, and other library services in far-flung and/or low-income areas.  
  • Libraries can help connect people to social services and resources that address mental health, housing, food insecurity, and more. JCLS employs a Social Worker and Resource Specialists who work with patrons to meet their needs. 

Every day, JCLS and libraries around the country are thinking creatively about how to make traditional and new library services easier for people to use and ever more relevant to their lives and needs. This National Library Week, will you help us get the word out and make some new connections? If you love libraries, tell someone else and tell them why. There is something for everyone at the library, and everyone is welcome. Let’s connect at the library.