Written by: Kristen
You may not know this but the public library is a vibrant community hub that fills a gap in countless peoples’ lives in our community. In a city where nearly 1 in 4 families are living in poverty, the library can be an essential lifeline.
In the morning, there typically is a line-up of people waiting to go into the library long before we open our doors. Many of those individuals waiting have left one of the local shelters first thing in the morning and need a place to spend their day. They need a place where they won’t have to spend money. In the afternoon, as I walk through the stacks of books, there are people curled up in chairs sleeping because they literally have nowhere else to go.
The library is one of the few places where the public is allowed (and encouraged!) to come and stay for as long as they like. People can come, use the washroom, get a drink of water, and escape the heat or the cold.
Every day, Librarians come face-to-face with the toll that poverty takes on our clientele. We give out meal calendars and find addresses to local shelters for those that need it. We refer patrons to social service agencies so they can obtain identification or access free legal aid. We work closely with literacy organizations and ESL providers to ensure that those who cannot pay for classes are still afforded learning opportunities. We also help to increase social well-being. We provide access to free books, magazines, programs, and much more to people who might not be able to afford them. We also provide access to computers and the Internet, helping to bridge the digital divide that grows larger and larger as technology and Internet service become increasingly expensive. We give people the opportunity to read a new book, to catch up on the latest newspaper, and to connect with others online.
As a Librarian, I see the effects that poverty has on our community first-hand. There is no class that any Librarian can take to prepare you to gently remind the woman reading in the corner that the library is closing, knowing full well that she has nowhere to go when she leaves, or the relationship you will build with the group of homeless teens who come in every day to use the computer and charge their phones.
But I’m proud to be part of this profession. I am proud that every day, Librarians across our city, are helping to make a difference and building our community. One person at a time.
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