Public libraries all across the country are struggling to make ends meet and keep afloat, and when publicly accessible information is crucial in making educated decisions and staying informed on what’s going on in the world, that’s a problem. Libraries exist as more than just places to store books until people are ready to read them—they’re community spaces where everyone can learn, get professional development, look for employment, and so much more. Libraries are keystone institutions that offer safety and opportunity to everyone without costing them a dime, and acknowledging the importance that public libraries play in their communities is vital to understanding why they should be valued more than they currently are.
It’s hard to find a place in the United States of America that offers safe, accessible, and free resources to the general public, but public libraries play that exact role for everyone in their community. No matter if you’re rich or poor, there is no class discrimination at libraries because they are free of charge to everyone: books are free, internet access is free, and educational and professional training programs are free. Additionally, librarians across the country answer millions of questions a week that fall outside of where a book can be found in the building. From book suggestions to job applications, resume assistance to filling out government forms, librarians make sure that everyone has equal footing for where they need to go, free of charge.
Libraries act as a safe harbor for those of low income or who suffer homelessness. They are a free refuge for people who need shelter to duck into, and the staff becomes a crucial support system to those who need it. In some areas, like Washington, D.C., homeless shelters partner up with their local libraries and provide transportation to and from the locations every day to make the available resources to those who need it. Free access to the internet makes job hunting much easier to accomplish, and some have programs in place specifically designed to help bring people up from poverty.
America is a melting pot of different cultures, communities, and languages, but it’s no secret that the main way of communicating is through English. People who immigrate here from non-English speaking countries will need to find a place to learn how to communicate in English, and libraries provide that opportunity. Through periodicals, books, audiobooks, or online resources, libraries present the opportunity for English learners to immerse themselves in their new language. They also offer multilingual books for both adults and children that are designed to help English learners engage in their learning. A growing number of libraries are also expanding their collections with non-English books to provide more inclusivity in their selections for every reader, no matter their language.