We walked up the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol under February blue skies and sunshine last week, excited to talk with state leaders about Wisconsin’s public libraries. Librarians, library directors, and library board trustees from across the state of Wisconsin, including several library directors from Jefferson County libraries, were in Madison for Library Legislative Day, an annual opportunity for library advocates to share the impact of libraries in our communities and thank them for their continued support.
Sitting down with state senators and representatives, we shared the stories of those who use and depend on library services in our towns, cities, and villages: the person who used Gale Courses online classes to build skills for reentering the job market, those living with Alzheimer’s who find friendship and support at our memory café programs, the children who discover a love of reading at our early literacy classes. Every day, we see the profound impact a library can have on an individual’s life and on the health of a community. Sharing this with the elected officials who make decisions for our state is critical for the future of libraries in Wisconsin and it was heartening to get their feedback and answer their questions about what libraries offer their constituents.
Abby Armour, the director at the Johnson Creek Public Library, was there to represent small, rural libraries.
“Our challenges are slightly different than the bigger libraries, but we appreciate everything the legislators are doing for us,” she said.
Information is powerful. Access (or the lack thereof) to quality information and resources can greatly influence us individually, as a community, and as a nation. In that respect, libraries and librarians are key examples of democracy at work in your community, as they provide equal access to resources, find quality information to improve lives, and seek ways to level the playing field so everyone can have a chance to succeed. For that to continue, your support is crucial.
You don’t have to wait until next February to speak up for your libraries. Here are a few ideas:
- Think of a time the library helped you find an answer or get access to a resource. Or think of what the library means to you and why it matters to you. Then share those thoughts with your library, either in-person, through an email or phone call, or on social media.
- Call or write your legislators, council members, and other local officials to tell them why the library matters to you.
- Talk to your librarians. Ask questions and learn more about what the library does in your community and what it can do for you.
- Use your vote to support library initiatives or funding for libraries.
As one senator told us last week, hearing from voters makes a difference.
“Get your friends and neighbors to call, have people send us an email,” she said.
Your voice and your story matter, and I encourage you to use both to support your library all year long.
Jill Fuller is the coordinator of marketing and communications with the Bridges Library System of which the Karl Junginger Memorial Library is a member.