When most people think of libraries, they think of buildings in the center of their communities that house hundreds upon hundreds of books. While the ability to borrow books for free is one of the main roles of a library, these publicly-operated entities offer so much more for the residents of any given area. People with access to a library not only have the opportunity to search for books on just about any topic, but they also have access to free Internet resources, community programs and educational opportunities.
With this in mind, Barbara Stripling, the president-elect of the American Library Association, has focused her leadership of the organization on one theme: Libraries Change Lives. This initiative has become a part of the America’s Right to Libraries Campaign, and from there, the Declaration for the Right to Libraries was developed. Essentially, this declaration serves as a public statement that defends the value that libraries hold in today’s world: for students, for community members and for the nation as a whole.
On July 22, the American Library Association officially endorsed this public declaration, according to a statement made in a press release by the organization. By endorsing the declaration, the ALA has committed to working with libraries and members across the country to also sign the declaration. Throughout the next year, the ALA will be focused on engaging libraries and supporting them as they work to implement the declaration in their own communities.
The resolution to support the declaration was passed by ALA members at its annual conference, which took place from June 27 through July 2 in Chicago, Illinois. Members opted to support and pass the resolution based on the fact that they wholeheartedly believe that libraries are an essential component to American society, and remain a critical part of any democracy. The declaration makes a variety of strong public statements about the importance of libraries in the 21st century, including:
- Libraries empower the individual.
- Libraries help to strengthen family units.
- Libraries provide equal opportunities for people throughout a community, regardless of income or assets.
- Libraries provide people with the opportunity to conduct research.
- Libraries protect the American people’s right to know, learn and read.
Ultimately, the goal of the declaration is to raise the public’s awareness about the importance of libraries in communities throughout the country. In a time when e-books are taking over the market, brick-and-mortar book stores are closing and municipalities are having a difficult time funding libraries, people may begin to take libraries and all that they bring to their communities for granted. This declaration provides libraries with the opportunity to build their own image within their community again. Participating library centers are encouraged to ask members of their own community to sign and support libraries throughout this initiative. These signing ceremonies provide individuals, community leaders and library supporters the opportunity to publicly support not only the library they are standing in but also all libraries across the entire country.