April 9th is National Library Workers Day, but what do librarians and libraries really do? As a society, we understand that libraries and those who work in them are crucial to our culture, but many people don’t know exactly why they are so important.
Libraries have been around far longer than we have. The first library was founded in modern-day Iraq in the 7th century B.C. Since then, libraries have evolved immensely, from this ancient library with approximately 30,000 titles to huge collections that include millions upon millions of books. According to the American Library Association, the largest literary collection in the United States is held by the Library of Congress at a whopping 34 million volumes.
Within these large collections to be treasured, librarians are the gatekeepers to knowledge. Librarians, however, do more than just re-stock the shelves of books that have been read and returned. First of all, becoming a librarian is hard work. After an undergraduate degree, a Masters of Library Science degree must be earned in order to be employed as a full-fledged librarian.
Technical services are a large part of a librarian’s job as well. Maintaining and updating databases for the book collections is a key component of keeping libraries moving smoothly. Keeping the library’s collection up to date with the newest books and reference material is another important job – including deciding how many of which books to order, to keep on the shelves for patrons.
Dealing with the patrons themselves can almost be considered a fulltime job. Librarians are constantly asked for help in finding books based on interest, and must maintain a level of knowledge in order to assist in this. Not only do they assist in finding books and other such reference materials, they also help people use public computers, prepare resumes, and streamline other such public services.
Libraries are often considered to be the place where communities are built. If you walk into a library in any community, you can see children and adults being tutored, classes being held for seniors, people being helped with their taxes, and librarians showing the younger generation where to find their requested books about science for their school project. This sense of community to be found in libraries is so important to the fabric of American culture. Many of us have cherished memories of spending time after school with friends in our local libraries, and want to pass this on to our children. This is why librarians and the values they hold and pass on are so important.
Fully certified librarians aren’t the only people who work in the libraries and support this good work, though, and the other workers need to be acknowledged and thanked as well. There are people who are employed by libraries to assist in checking books out and in restocking shelves. There are also countless volunteers who assist in programs that are held at libraries to enrich the community. There are volunteers who assist in funding libraries by holding library book sales, or selling books that are out of circulation and donated books online to fund new books or programs. All of these people – librarians, other employees, and volunteers – help our libraries to thrive and grow. To all of you, we say, “Thank you!”
Fun facts about the Forsyth County Library from 2018-2019 (source: forsyth.cc/library/statistics)
- 1,247,245 people visited the library
- 7,361 programs were sponsored by the library, and 123,024 people attended those programs
- 1,858,742 items were checked out from the libraries
- The Forsyth County Library system is made of 10 separate libraries