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Books: An Essential Part of Essential Libraries

Post by Duncan Smith
Posted February 02, 2012 in Readers' Advisory News, Special Announcements

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Every day people come through the doors of our public libraries bringing with them the questions that matter, the questions that can make a difference in their lives.  How do I raise my child to be a reader so they can have a better life than mine?  How do I find a job?  How do I deal with the fact that my mother has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What’s a good book to read?

We do a very good job of talking about how our programs, services, databases and resources help parents raise readers, users find jobs, and customers cope with health issues. But we don’t do such a good job of telling our communities how simply reading books can help build not only better lives, but better communities.

Over the years, I have worked with lots of readers and seen how powerful and life-changing putting the right book in the right reader’s hand can be.  The more I thought about how invisible this important part of our profession’s work had become, the more I decided I wanted to find a way to connect reading with how libraries bring value to their communities. 

I wrote the article titled, Books: An Essential Part of Essential Libraries, which was recently published in Public Library Quarterly. My article opens talking about the work that ALA volunteers did in post-Katrina New Orleans. I came up with the idea for starting my article this way while attending the American Library Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans this summer.  I was struck by the city’s motto—Recover, Rebuild, Rebirth.  I believe that is what we are doing when we read—we are recovering the capacity to imagine which enables us to rebuild our humanity and that leads to reborn and vital communities.

I am pleased to say that PLQ has agreed to offer FREE access to this article for a limited time. I encourage you to take a look. To download a copy, please go to