I was on Facebook the other day and many of my library friends were posting an article from the Atlantic Monthly called, “Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations.” Interested, I read the article and was excited to see that the millennial generation loves reading. The article shares the results of a Pew research report that studied the role of the influence of libraries on young readers, ages 16-29. “Eighty-eight percent of Americans under age 30, read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older” and they also used the library slightly more than older adults. For a split second, I was ecstatic. I now, finally had proof that all my hard work as well as the hard work and tireless efforts of all my friends and fellow librarians who put in long days planning programs, recommending books, and advocating to parents and politicians, actually worked.
Then I read the following sentence: “At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing – with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.” Only 19% of Millennials say that their local library’s closing would impact them, even though they are using the library as much as older patrons.
Before we throw our hands in the air and call in sick tomorrow, let’s take another look at the facts. We have created a generation of readers who use the library and are reading and utilizing the library more than the generation before them. Unfortunately, they just don’t understand the importance of the library to themselves and to their community.
As everyday advocates, we can fix that. Children do not have political power. They have limited say in decisions affecting their lives, but as we can see with this study, they are the future politicians, community partners, and parents with whom we will be advocating to justify our budget and staff. Instead of trying to convince adults to become library advocates, let’s focus on the youth to create life-long library advocates! As Children’s librarians, we have the unique ability to advocate from birth. The next time you are talking to caregivers about the importance of storytime, be certain to include the children in the discussion. When you find that perfect book for a child, remind them how the library is important to them. Sometimes, we focus so much on the political parts of advocacy, that we forget that it as simple as talking to a child. Who is with me?
Gloria Repolesk is a Children’s Librarian at the Emmet O’Neal Public Library. She is writing this blog post on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.