NORFOLK – The week of April 7th through the 13th is National Library Week. The theme this year is: “Libraries = Strong Communities”. I stopped by the Norfolk Public Library to see why the people there think this theme is accurate, and why the library deserves to be celebrated.
“It levels the playing field for a lot of people who don’t have resources on their own… they can come somewhere and access those services. It also provides enlightenment, education, and entertainment for people across classes and races… and it really does make the community a better, stronger place to live in” says Norfolk Public Library Director Jessica Chamberlain.
Libraries of the 21st century look a little different than the first public libraries established in the United States in the 1800s, but they serve the same general purpose.
“…Libraries were always about learning… people self directed education our [their] own life long learning needs. It is just the containers for that information has changed over time. It used to be in a book… and now we have lots of options”
The main option, it seems, is through the internet. However, even though access to learning resources is available without even leaving the house, libraries are being used now more than ever.
“We looked at usage of the library before the internet was common and usage after the internet [became] common, and our usage was up by 35%. Just because people have access to information doesn’t mean they have all the tools they need to access it, and it doesn’t mean that they want to access it that way – or even can.”
Along with the increase in public use, there is an increase in library jobs, and librarian employment is expected to rise by 9% by 2026… and I’m told the people filling these jobs aren’t the mean librarians you always seem to see in movies or TV shows.
“It’s really a great place to be. You are surrounded by knowledge and people that love knowledge. Librarians are curious, they are problem solvers, and that is the type of people that gravitate to library jobs now – people that love that part of the job, and love working with people. It is a wonderful place to work.”