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Libraries: An Endangered Species

How to Support Libraries
Libraries: An Endangered Species
Rainy Korein ’27


“You just read all day, right?” is a common assumption that will have many librarians rolling their eyes. In the words of Sara Huff, librarian at the Abington Public Library, that is “the farthest from the truth.  

While free books are important tools to level the playing field of literacy, libraries function as far more than storage units for books. As a librarian, Huff’s tasks vary wildly. 

“I never know what I’m gonna do, what the day’s gonna bring,” Huff said. “In one day, I can help someone apply for a job, help someone do research for a school project, do an interview with you, I can help find a book for somebody ….”  

A significant chunk of Huff’s time is also devoted to leading various community groups and volunteer events. 

“You just never know what the day’s gonna bring and people are overwhelmingly so appreciative of what we do. I often hear things like ‘I love the library’ and ‘you guys are the best’. Yesterday I helped a woman print out song lyrics for this gig she was doing with her band and to thank me she gave me homemade Shepherd’s Pie. We don’t expect anything in return and we do this job because we love it but it is really nice when someone does something like that.” 

Huff devotes much of her time to organizing and leading community groups that form connections with local teens and adults, including Q-Crew – a social and volunteer space for queer teens – and the Abington Library Teen Advisory Board (AB-TAB) – a space where teens are encouraged to use their voices to make the library a more widely appealing space by adding elements relevant to youth interests. 

As a participant in both Q-Crew and AB-TAB, I can attest that these spaces have served as a grounding, exciting, and inspirational presence in my life where I can meet new people, use my creativity, and collaborate with peers to support a cause I believe in. I was glad to hear that these endeavors have proved rewarding for Huff as well due to their lasting positive impact. 

Huff listed, “working with you all and getting to know you over the course of how many years you’re here and developing that relationship with you,” as a pro of her job, elaborating; “I’m still in touch with teens who are graduating college this spring, and they still email me and we still check in with each other. It’s a really special thing.”  

Huff brought to light the way in which libraries act not only as a public resource but as a sanctuary.

“A lot of people come in and need help – they might be struggling with mental health issues, they might be struggling with hunger, they might be unhoused, they might be struggling with domestic violence.” she said, adding; “I think the thing that I struggle with the most is wanting to help people more than I’m able to…We can provide them with phone numbers and resources but I can’t fix their problems.”

 This is still true even while Abington Public Library exists as one of the more fortunate ones.

Huff said, “Often public libraries are underfunded. We are lucky that this library is well-funded…but a lot of libraries struggle to provide basic resources for their community. That is a drawback. I’ve worked in libraries of different budgets, so I’ve seen all areas.”

 Huff confirmed that working in underfunded libraries that have even fewer resources compounds the frustration of not being able to help everyone you want to. Chronic budget cuts create damaging repercussions for underfunded libraries and the communities that depend on them for free help, shelter, recreation, and for the resources necessary to succeed in school and work.

 “They will have reduced hours (for example, they sometimes will be open 9-2 pm instead of 9-8 pm). That impacts the community – where do these people go who need library services after 2 pm? Especially kids after school or adults who work 9-5 pm.” 

As underfunded libraries constantly struggle to provide the essentials, recreational resources that make places like the Abington Free Library a fun safe hangout for teens and adults alike are often out of the question.

“Cutting materials budgets…means that budgets for books, DVDs, and other items are often cut. So they can only dream about having specialty items like board games and hotspots,” Huff said. 

Another victim of budget cuts that limit the ability of underfunded communities to benefit from and participate competitively in our digital world is technological resources. 

“Technology is constantly changing. Underfunding may prevent libraries from investing in updated technology which can lead to slow internet speeds and limited access to digital resources….We might assume that everyone has access to high-speed internet, but that’s not true. Forty-two million Americans are without broadband internet. This impacts daily lives, like homework and parents working from home.” 

Huff says that the simplest way to support underfunded libraries is to get a library card for one.

“Library cards are an important part of the report we have to show the state each year…Getting a library card shows ‘this many people in the community got library cards this year’, so we could show the state ‘look how many people use us.’” 

The Free Library of Philadelphia offers cards free of charge to anyone living in the state of Pennsylvania. Your Free Library card will allow you access to all the Free Library locations in Philadelphia, as well as showing your support for each one of those locations. You can find instructions on how to get one here.

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  • T

    TimurMay 13, 2024 at 1:00 pm

    I agree with the author of the article. Libraries are an important place in not just the school but also the public libraries since they can give people free access to computers and other things that some people might need. In the school the library, for me, is a place that I go to pretty frequently as I spend most of my free time there, be it a free or just during office hours. I like the library because it’s a nice place to just sit down at / in and get work done, it just just a calm and relaxing space in which I can be focused on what I’m doing or just enjoy spending my free time in. In this day and age with more people just ordering books or reading online the public libraries all over get less people visiting them and I think it’s a shame since lots of people could probably benefit from having a nice relaxing place to work. 

  • W

    Will HaleMay 13, 2024 at 12:59 pm

    I agree with this author. They provide as essential places for research, education, and cross-cultural communication, helping people to learn new things, develop their capacity for thinking critically, and improve their quality of life. Libraries continue to be educating organizations in an era of unlimited understanding, encouraging continuing learning and building a more educated and connected society. Libraries provide everyone with many kinds of uses outside of the classroom. They provide a friendly space where people of all ages can follow their own interests, such as starting up new hobbies or reading for fun. Book clubs, author readings, workshops, lectures, and other events happen regularly at public libraries to promote learning and a sense of community.

  • P

    PiperMay 13, 2024 at 11:06 am

    I agree that libraries are important to communities. Libraries are a space that foster engagement across all age groups. I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries, playing with other kids and engaging thoughtfully with the books there. My parents would let me pick up a stack of books every few weeks, and I found that as I got more comfortable I ventured farther into the shelves with advanced writing. My public library was a huge component in my childhood love for reading. Now, most of the time I spend in libraries is studying. It allows me to focus with other like-minded students and get work done in a quiet, focused place.

  • I

    Isabella GanMay 9, 2024 at 8:52 am

    I agree with the author. The library is an important space in the school. In my view, the library is an important place to preserve and inherit our culture and an important channel to know what we want to know and broaden our horizons. Bodnar’s words actually surprised me, because, in my old school, the library was only a place to store books. If I go to the library it is just because there are books I want to rent. I think it is a good way to provide tools and printers in the AFS library, it can strengthen the connection between students and the library. But I think we could have more activities in the library to strengthen the connection. Digital books have led to fewer people going to the library, but I think printing books is still the best way to concentrate on reading something. In addition, many young children like my host sister still love to go to the library. 

  • J

    JacobMay 9, 2024 at 6:55 am

    Throughout my time at AFS the I have seen the value a library can bring to a community. Even the lower school library, although small, has been an important part of my time here at AFS. The option to use the library as a resource is an amazing opportunity but that is nothing compared to the assistance I have received from librarians at AFS since 4th grade. I still remember learning how to use a computer thanks to the efforts of the lower school librarians and more recently in 7th grade they assisted me again with how to properly cite sources for an essay. Granted I have not gone to a public library in years so I can’t speak to how useful other libraries are but I’m not sure what I would do without the library and more specifically Tony because she does it all from book recommendations to helping with computer problems.

  • L

    Luca LMay 6, 2024 at 8:10 am

    I do think that libraries are really important, especially for those who need to get work done or just want to gain more knowledge or learn about something. I have used libraries inside and outside of school, and I think they are a great way for those who may not enough money or resources to read books. I do think that there has been a recent decline in the popularity of libraries. There may be many reasons why, but I do think since technology is much more advanced than before, people are able to gain access to books digitally. It is much easier and more convent for some people to read digitally. I also think that the recent trend of audiobooks has also played a factor in the declining popularity of libraries.

  • M

    MasonMay 6, 2024 at 7:37 am

    For me, libraries have been something that has benefited me not just for finding a book, but also providing a quiet space to clear my mind and get some work done. It’s hard for me at least to just find any spot and read, study, get schoolwork, or anything done. So for me when I do need to lock in and get some work done going to a library is where I find myself being the most productive. I think a big piece as to why I and I’m sure many others feel this way is because when you are in a library you also see other people for the most part focused and getting work done, which can be motivating and at least for prevent me from going on my phone as much. Unfortunately, the pandemic for through off my balance of screen time and work time especially since school work is in such a digital platform now, so having a library helps me and reminds me of the earlier days of my time at school when I’d go to a library more often then sit in my room and glance on my phone while trying to complete school work.

  • A

    AlejandroMay 6, 2024 at 7:30 am

    I completely agree with this sentiment. One of my favorite on campus spots in the entire school is the Faulkner Library. The librarian quoted in this article is absolutely right. The message that the library is all about reading is a false narrative. For me, the AFS Faulkner Library brings peace, calmness of the mind, and joy that I can be focused on my work. When I struggle to do my work, my local public library is always an inviting place. Typically it will just be me and the librarians as I just sit at one of the tables doing my work, but it is a warm and inviting place that nobody takes advantage of. The library is one of the greatest and safest places I know with some of the warmest and friendliest individuals I have ever met. It is a great shame that it is no longer used to its full potential anymore in this day and age, and only seen as a place to just read all day.