10 Unexpectedly Easy Ways To Support Your Local Library

by Kerri Jarema

I admit that I wasn't always a local library lover in my adulthood. Of course, the library was a haven for me as a kid. They always had the new book in my favorite series, I knew tons of kids from the neighborhood who were always there, and it basically felt like one big reading party — which, if you know me, is exactly the kind of party I want to attend. But sometime during high school, the library became an afterthought. I'd grab the latest books from Borders (R.I.P.), Barnes & Noble or The Strand, and building my own collection becoming more important than visiting my old standby, the Hamilton Fish branch of the New York Public Library. But in the past three years or so, libraries have made a resurgence in my life. And there is no better time for you to rediscover the magic of libraries than during National Library Week.

It seems wild to me that I neglected to use the library for so many years — I don't know if you know this but... they have free books there! Even beyond being able to get my hands on all of the newest books without having to purchase them, I have been reminded just how much the local library is a necessary space for any community. Laptops that allow children without computers at home to do their assignments, programs for senior citizens, language and research courses, all of this is available at the local library. And there are so many unexpected ways to support your library that doesn't just include dropping some cash. Of course, different libraries have different needs, and some branches won't need the things I mention below. Make sure to check in with your librarians about the specific needs of your local branch before acting on the tips below:

First And Foremost, You Have To Actually Use Your Local Library

This one is probably the easiest and most obvious of the bunch, but you need to actually utilize one of your own community's libraries. Get yourself a new library card if yours has lapsed, check out some books (either physical or from your library's extensive e-catalogue), attend one of the library's programs, you can even just leave your own computer at home and check out one of the library's computers for an afternoon if you are so inclined. Any one of these things will help to up your library's stats for the year — proving to the people who give the funding that the library is indeed worthy of the cash and resources it needs to stay functioning.

Request All Those Books You Really Want To Read That The Library Doesn't Have Yet

One of the biggest negatives I hear about libraries is that they just don't have all of the books people want to read. And, yes, I have also struggled to find the latest memoir or YA fantasy I've been dying to get my hands on. But here's the thing: the library wants to know what you want to read! They want to serve their community to the best of their ability, but they can't know what you really want to read unless you tell them. Sure, it will take an extra step or two than just walking into the bookstore and buying the book, but think of it this way: you'll not only be getting to read the book for free, you'll be helping other people who want to read the book (and can't afford to buy it) get access to it. Win, win.

Ask The Library What Supplies They Need, And Then Donate Them

We don't always have extra cash to donate to all of our favorite causes (as much as we might wish we did) but how many of us have an old printer we never use anymore, or art supplies we no longer need? If you're looking for a worthy place to unload some stuff in your quest for a more minimal existence, the library might just be the perfect place to do so. Make sure to call your local branch beforehand to see if they need whatever it is you've got, but you might be surprised to know just how helpful a set of new watercolors could be for a kids art class, or a printer for the back office who is desperate for one that doesn't jam every time it's used.

Get Yourself Out Of The House By Committing To Some Regular Volunteer Hours

Get off of Netflix and get some volunteer hours in at your local library. Most branches are looking for at least one extra set of hands, and committing to regular days and hours can actually be super helpful to the staff who can come to depend on volunteer help. I know that volunteers at my local library do everything from shelve books to run programs, so depending on your own skill set and what you're into, you could be putting your hobbies to good use and supporting your community at the same time. What's better than that?

If You've Got A Special Skill, You Can Offer To Lead A Library Program Or Give A Lecture

This might sound out there, but if you've got a particular skill (think creative writing, computer programming, etc.) that might be useful to a wide enough swath of the library's patrons, your branch might just love to have you host a one-time lecture or even a program series to teach that skill. If you can't commit to regular hours this might be a great way to scratch the volunteer itch without changing your entire schedule around. Plus, who doesn't love to impart their love of their work with others? You might just inspire someone to become the next great artist, writer or graphic artist of their generation.

Purchase A Magazine Subscription For The Library's Patrons

Books aren't the only thing that library patrons are after. Magazines are actually hugely sought after at most library branches, but while the usual suspects are often easy to find, there are specialized art, literary, music, feminist and other crucial magazines that the average library branch just won't have. So why not offer to buy it for them? Make sure you have all the necessary vendor information before you make the offer (as well as asking a librarian whether the magazine would best serve the branches readers.) For $10 to $20 the community will have at least a year's worth of inspiring periodicals that they might never find elsewhere.

If You Want To Make Donating And Volunteering A Regular Thing Join The Friends Of The Library Program

If you really want to commit to doing the most you can for your library, join their Friends of the Library program. You can find information about this online, but there are tons of great reasons to join, including members only perks like discounts, exclusive early invites to library exhibits and programs, and subscriptions to library magazines and newsletters. Not only will this keep you in touch with the every day goings-on at the library, it will insure that you are always reminded to make the library a top charitable priority in your life.

Write Or Call Your Representatives To Advocate For Increased Funding

Yes, in the year 2018 you are probably a little bit tired of writing to and calling your reps for various injustices being perpetrated in our country today. But if you're truly committed to helping out your library, you can do so much by giving your local government officials a call. Proving that the community is passionate about making sure that their libraries are thriving and can remain open for a long time to come is one of the only ways that reps will know exactly how much money to invest in their programs.

Advocate For Library Support Among Your Neighbors And Friends

OK, so you might have to attend a couple of comunity board meetings, or get a group of library-minded people in your own building together, but getting more support for the local library can really be as easy as that. Let your community know what you've found out from your library volunteer hours or from your own donations. What does the library need more of? Chances are super high that someone you know (or someone they know) can help. You can even go so far as to organize a group trip to your branch where people can sign up for their cards, ask questions, join programs, etc. Fostering a continued love for the library is crucial.

Take Part In National Library Week Celebrations In Your Community

Of course, National Library Week is an entire week dedicated to celebrating exactly what is is that makes libraries so great, and so important. From National Library Workers Day on April 10 to Take Action For Libraries Day there are tons of ways you can get out and support not only your local library, but libraries in general. Local branches will also have their own programs in place to mark the week, so head over there or give them a call. And be sure to check out a book or two while you're there, of course.