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Love the Library!

I’m a self-proclaimed “library kid.” Reading Rainbow was one of my favorite tv shows, and I participated in Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT like it was a competitive sport. I’ve always loved the library. The smell of books, the high ceilings and big windows, the cozy corners, the Summer Reading Program, the hum of storytime in the family room – every part of the library brings me joy.

As an English teacher, I appreciated our school librarians more than I could ever express. They helped me plan lessons, designed library scavenger hunts, taught invaluable research skills, gave book talks to connect my students to the perfect book – and the list goes on.

When I served as a public librarian, I fell in love with the library even more. Libraries are one of the last community spaces where people can exist – in climate controlled conditions – for free. Libraries provide public internet and computer access, printing, scanning, and faxing services, test exam proctoring, literacy programming for children and adults, meeting spaces, access to countless online materials, as well as books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, and even seeds for your garden.

In the past few years, however, school and public libraries have been in the hot seat. This year, 28 schools in Houston, TX transformed their school libraries into “team centers,” or spaces designed for disruptive or disobedient students to watch lessons virtually. This decision follows a national 20-year trend of eliminating school librarian positions and decreasing funding for school libraries. Additionally, states across the country have implemented legislation that decreases or defunds public library budgets for failure to ban books that are deemed inappropriate.

Years of research have consistently shown that school libraries and librarians positively impact student achievement, standardized test scores, graduation rates, and literacy and content mastery. Public libraries in South Dakota were frequented 2.5 million times by residents and visitors in 2023, and SD librarians and staff answered over 260,000 reference questions. A 2019 study found that communities with public libraries had improved access to health care, addiction treatment, stress management, food security, early childhood wellbeing, job opportunities, and social support. Reading has even shown to improve mental health.

I’ve always considered librarianship to be the sister science to education. Thank you, libraries.

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Dolly Parton also loves the library. Her Imagination Library sends free books to children, ages birth to five, regardless of the family’s income. Don’t forget: September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month! If you don’t already have a library card, you can visit your local library. Library cards are usually free and require only an ID and proof of address to obtain one.

Jacqueline Wilber, Ed.D. is an experienced educator from South Dakota. She is currently a faculty member at the University of South Dakota and Director of the Center for Student and Professional Services in the School of Education.

She began her career in public schools in 2007 and has served as a teacher, librarian, and administrator. Jackie holds a Nebraska Teaching Certificate for 7-12 grade English/Language Arts, a Nebraska Public Library Certificate, and an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 500) credential through Yoga Alliance. She was a 2014 Sioux Falls School District Teacher of the Year Finalist.