Libraries Build Communities

Feeding the Dragon

Libraries Build Communities

By Bridget Quinn-Carey, Chief Executive Officer of the Hartford Public Library

Public libraries are the global commons; they are society’s great equalizer and places that strengthen communities. Libraries serve a critical role in a community and a society, providing opportunities for learning, exploring, and engaging. For all. Everyone.Bridget Quinn-Carey

What other places offer this? Using any other public space is qualified by something: parks are limited by weather, schools have age and use restrictions, transportation centers don’t have an educational or cultural mission, museum and cultural centers are not always free.

There is no other place where free access to, and the exchange of, ideas and information is the sole focus of our mission. Where open access is maintained and kept free from agendas or ideology.

Public libraries embrace this role as a critical responsibility of social justice, human rights and equality. We serve people in our own backyard and from around the world – whether they are visiting tourists, new residents, immigrants or refugees.

Libraries are at the forefront of community conversations and experiences– participating, leading, convening and bringing people together around important and interesting issues and topics. We are still literary, but we’re also about literacy, and education, and civic engagement.

Many urban libraries serve communities that experience poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, and suffer from entrenched opportunity gaps. Budget issues often threaten the important services which so many count on for basic needs and support. Libraries provide the safety net for those in need, often providing the support they need for education, skill training and youth services.

Libraries are centers of excellence and opportunity for early learning initiatives and intervention. With early exposure to literacy rich, play based environments, like libraries, children are ready to read and ready to learn. If children don’t learn to read well by the end of the third grade they are more likely to drop out of school. This is the opportunity gap we see every day, which plagues cities and states across the country. Libraries are in a unique position to help close that opportunity gap – and we’re doing just that with our early learning and after school enrichment programs.

To be successful, and to permanently close the opportunity gap, adults need to be supported as well. Libraries do that through adult education classes and career readiness support and through partnerships with other organizations and institutions.

Libraries are about learning, and also about culture and connections, civic engagement and building a sense of community. Through art, culture, literature and music we help people find those connections that bring us all together as a society, as a community, and as people. Libraries are truly places like no other.

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