Responding to the Recession: Public Libraries Increase Community Resources

It’s not news that many people have been required to make financial sacrifices and adjustments to get through the recession. The spike in library usage is a strong reflection of how the new American consumer of goods and information behaves. Even though more people are using the library as a resource, public libraries aren’t safe from funding cuts. However, libraries across the country are doing anything but backing down.

Unlike other public institutions who are seeing funding cuts, like public schools, even though libraries are seeing less funding, they are responding to the increase in traffic by providing more services for the community than ever, instead of cutting programs, according to a recent Marketplace story.

The library is taking a new shape as the public’s demands change. Students still go for research, young kids go for story time, and the elderly might go to learn Word processing skills. However, as more people are hit by unemployment and homelessness, more people are looking at the library as a place of refuge; a place that provides free shelter and education.

Libraries are hiring social workers to assist people in their community to cope with a new lifestyle due to the recession. Some are also adding free job skill centers, resume tutoring, and lessons in using the Internet to search for jobs. But for some, learning job placement skills isn’t enough when they don’t know the next place they will sleep or where they will get their next meal. That’s why some libraries are also providing basic needs, like dental health kits, blood pressure screenings, and haircuts.

How could a public education be different if the school districts adapted to the changing economy like libraries are? For many low-income students, school is the safe haven equivalent to the adult’s library. Libraries are getting the community ready for jobs, but many schools focus on raising test scores over teaching real-world skills students need to rebuild the economy and succeed in school and career.

LifeBound’s book Majoring in the Rest of Your Life is a high schoolers guide to using school to build skills needed for higher education and a 21st century job.  If you are working with disadvantaged or impoverished students, ask us about our book donation program for summer reading. We believe summer reading can change lives and we’d like to work with you to do just that.

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