Recently, several of us from the library had the opportunity to attend a workshop featuring Jamie LaRue, the director of the Douglas County Library in Colorado. He is one of the prominent voices in America advocating for libraries.
Among his many credentials, he is distinguished for transforming his library from a county department that was ranked as the worst public library in Colorado to an independent library district which is currently one of the best library systems in the nation.
Jamie has a goal. He calls it his “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” He wants the people who love their library to become library advocates and to communicate to the world the value that the library brings to the community.
Mr. LaRue’s advocacy message contains the following four major points:
— Libraries change lives. How? Through our passionate advocacy for literacy and lifelong learning.
— Libraries build community. How? By providing public space and encouraging citizen engagement.
— Libraries mean business. How? By helping people find jobs and helping entrepreneurs create them.
— Libraries are a smart investment. How? We are a cooperative purchasing agreement that has a great return on the investment.
In the library, we are working to bring literacy and the joy of reading to society’s youngest members. The library provides access, often the only access, to the Internet that connects people to employment and educational resources. The library is the institution that supports intellectual freedom, life-long learning, and cultural preservation, and it is free and available to anyone who walks in the door.
The communities in Robeson County love their libraries and recognize the value they add to the quality of life. No one wants their neighborhood library to go away, but it is really easy to take it for granted. We tend to think of the library as something that has always been there for us. However, each of the libraries in our county was brought about by the hard work and dedication of community citizens. Let’s continue their work by adding our support to make our libraries even better.
If you have a story about how the library has made a difference in your life, I would love to hear about it. Collecting our stories illustrates the value of the libraries in our communities in a way that mere statistics will never show.
— Catie Roche is the director of the Robeson County Public Library. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.