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Guest MINDSETTER™ Rachael Juskuv: Why You Should Invest in Community Libraries

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Access to research, job-finding opportunities, emerging technologies, innovative learning spaces, history preservation and community leaders. These are all terms that highlight only some of the aspects of the new normal that defines libraries in Rhode Island. While some may be still stuck thinking of the library as “just books,” the public’s perception of a library continues to evolve. Librarians know and see the changing face of information and have a pulse on the community like no other public institution. Your librarian can tell you how your community is doing, what its highest needs are and what challenges it may have in the future. How is your community investing in its library?

The Coalition of Library Advocates, the RI Library Association and the Office of Library and Information Services presented "Exploring the New Normal: Trends in Library Services" at the Cranston Public Library on November 13, where they showed how libraries are more than a space for books and now strive to be an integral part of the community. Many libraries now have partnerships with after-school programs, local businesses and arts organizations. Some libraries in the state even partner with local farmers markets. Public libraries now offer computer program classes, teach engineering skills with Maker Spaces, offer groups and teams places to play games and make this all accessible to everyone in the community, not just the privileged few.

The school libraries, each connected to a public or private school are also part of your community. Each school library gives students resources to help them find information that they may not be able to find on their own. Librarians boost student achievement as they teach information skills to our young scholars. They have an increasingly important role in the learning process as new technologies continue to emerge and are a connected classroom in their own right. This resource can also give teachers new and creative ways to present information; for instance, by bringing students to the library to show a new example of the subject they are teaching.

Other Libraries

Another type of library that Rhode Island residents are connected to is the libraries found at each college or university in the state. These libraries are also open to the public and may hold historic collections of the area that the institution is located in and special collections where one-of-a kind information can be found. These librarians provide accessibility to research, statistics and promote open source access, creating resources that are available for all. They support their community, answering student’s needs, helping them with school projects and keep looking for ways to make more information accessible. These libraries strengthen Rhode Island’s academic community while encouraging the next generation.

Best of all- these three aspects of libraries work together in Rhode Island. Last year, the RI Library Association hosted “Money Smart Week,” a national initiative in its fifth year between the ALA and the Federal Reserve Bank (Chicago) to provide financial literacy programming to help members of your community better manage their personal finances. Working in collaboration, there were over 30 programs hosted in Rhode Island that gave residents good financial advice and one-on-one teaching in financial literacy from coupon-clipping to planning for retirement. These programs were held in all types of libraries, meeting the needs of each library community.

Digital Access

Along with these three institutions, RI residents can also access free and useful information digitally. Are you looking to learn a new language for free? Do you want some help passing a GED? Would you like to learn more about your family’s genealogy? The Office of Library and Information Services, the state’s library agency for Rhode Island offers these tools and more through askri.org. This web-based information program is just another way that libraries give Rhode Islanders the tools for growth that they can’t find anywhere else.  

There is so much that the library offers to your community and the state of Rhode Island. You can offer a lot too! Volunteer for your library and communicate with your community’s librarians. What skills can you offer or teach to others? The many aspects that a library offers is why you should be investing in your local library, whether it is a public, school or academic institution (and maybe you are part of all three). Because the more you give libraries financial opportunities, the more they will return that investment to you.

Rachael Juskuv is the RI Library Association’s PR Committee Chair.


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