All Things Libraries and Books – Part II

parent reading to children

National Library Week was first sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1958 and is observed in libraries across the country each April. All types of libraries—school, public, academic and institutional—participate. To paraphrase the title of a Japanese adult visual novel, “A Good Librarian is Like a Good Shepherd.”

National Librarian Day on April 16th is a chance to be thankful for all the knowledge that librarians possess. You may think of them as book-slingers who spend all day cataloging and re-shelving, but librarians play a much more important role. From children’s storytime to literacy classes, libraries offer a wealth of free public resources.

librarian sitting at front desk with shelves of books around her

Trained in Library Science, professional librarians work with complex cataloging systems to organize books, make purchasing decisions for their library, liaise with local schools and universities, organize events and programming, teach classes, and more. Their role is constantly evolving to adapt to new technology and social needs. Use this time to say thanks to the awesome librarians that are always on hand to help.

April 23rd is World Book Day. In 1995, UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be a celebration of books and reading. April 23rd is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. The day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

World Book Day changes lives through a love of books and shared reading. Their mission is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.

Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success—more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. It is UNESCO’s hope to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading for pleasure and the improved life chances this brings them. Spending just ten minutes a day reading and sharing stories with children can make a crucial difference to their future success.

April 24th is Library of Congress Appreciation Day. On April 24th, 1800, President John Adams approved an appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of [C]ongress.” This will be the 222nd birthday of the Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest, federal and cultural institution as well as the world’s largest library. The Library contains millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collection.

photo of Library of Congress in 1853

The first books purchased were ordered from London and arrived in 1801. The collection of 749 volumes and three maps was stored in the U.S. Capitol, the Library’s first home. At the time, it was not yet much of a building—only the north wing had been completed.

From 1802 to 1805, the small collection was located in a room previously occupied by the House of Representatives. It was later moved to various places in the Capitol until August 24, 1814, when the British burned and destroyed the Capitol, including the Library.

To replace the loss, Thomas Jefferson in 1815 sold his personal library of 6,487 volumes—which was then unrivaled in America—to Congress. Unfortunately, a second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed two-thirds of those volumes. But the Jefferson books nonetheless remain the core from which the Library’s present collections grew.

Congress established its Law Library n 1832, recognizing its need for ready access to reliable legal materials. The Law Library has grown over the years to become the world’s largest law library, with a collection of over three million volumes spanning the ages and covering virtually every jurisdiction in the world.

photo of current Thomas Jefferson Building

As far as a new home, the majestic Thomas Jefferson Building opened its doors in 1887. The struggle for its completion and its ultimate success brought the Library of Congress to public attention and a new public role.

The Jefferson Building was followed in 1938 by the John Adams Building and in 1981 by the James Madison Memorial Building. The Library also stores and cares for collections in off-site storage facilities.

The Library retains its original role as the research arm of Congress. But it makes its resources available to everyone, providing access to a rich, diverse and enduring source of knowledge to inform and inspire users of all backgrounds and ages in their intellectual and creative endeavors,

colorful; poster of book as base of hot air balloons saying Independent Booksellers Day

April 30th is Independent Book Store Day. Started in 2014 and held on the last Saturday in April, Independent Bookstore Day has become a much-needed shot of revenue for independent bookstores. They act as community anchors, serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enrich the cultural life of communities, and help craft economically-vibrant neighborhoods.

Today, libraries function as much more than simple repositories of knowledge. To keep up with changing technology, library offerings now include audiobooks, e-reader materials, free computer skills classes, and access to free online resources. Many public libraries offer language and citizenship classes,  free workshops for a variety of hobbies and life skills, and access to useful tools: technology like 3D printers and computers.

poster in colorful letters saying "Reading is dreaming with open eyes"
poster in colorful letters saying “Reading is dreaming with open eyes”

When most countries in the last two years have seen periods of confinement and people have had to limit their time spent outside, books have proved to be powerful tools to combat isolation. Books reinforced ties between people and expanded our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity. In some countries, the number of books read has doubled.

During the advent of COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns, my regional library remained open to fulfill the communities’ need for books. You could reserve books as usual and make an appointment for pickup; upon arrival, you parked in an assigned area and called the posted telephone number to let the librarians know you had arrived. The librarians delivered books to your open trunk (in all types of weather), eliminating the need to touch anything. And when COVID-19 testing kits became available, my library provided kits for pickup in the same manner.  Service indeed.

During the month of April especially, it is critical to take the time to read on your own or with your children. It is a time to celebrate the importance of reading, foster children’s growth as readers, and promote a lifelong love of literature.

A quote from Stephen King: "Books are a uniquely portable magic."


Link to Part I

(Thanks to the American Library Association, American Booksellers Association, The Library of Congress for background information and my personal library, Maricopa County Northwest Regional Library in Surprise, AZ, for their service)