A great band once sang, “Questions that besiege us in life are testament, to our helplessness.” I have thought about this a lot since I was a teenager. An undereducated punk, with no prospects of a future. I found refuge in a library. I found multiple answers to the multiple question that besieged my life. I never thought of how this sanctuary of knowledge made its money, pay its employees, where did all these books come from? We can all agree to some degree that money makes this world go round. A library’s funding is very important, as one can rightly assume. But how do they make their money, where does it come from?
Since I started my writing class, I have realized a few things, but one sticks out more than the others. A library is more than a place to borrow a book, or movie. A library is a center of a community, a place of almost infinite resources. If there is something you need, you can start off by going to your local library, and I guarantee you. You’ll have yourself a few more ideas on where start looking, then when you walked in. I know…I know, in the age of google, who would bother going to the library. I would ask first, when was the last time you stepped into a library? This is all wonderful, but how does a library happen? In a world full of computers and digital information.
Weeks ago our writing class started its spring term, our teacher asked us to sign up for a community service. I had never done anything like this before. I love to write, but I usually dip into the well of my own ideas. While education has always been something I argue is a fundamental idea, we as a society have to rethink. I did not connect the dots between my chosen community service – volunteering at my local library, and the connection it had with education. I do admit it, the answer was staring me right in the face, but sometimes that is the hardest thing to see. The answer seems to elude us when we ask, and then presents itself when you’re not looking.
I was never a studious person, and I ended with a gap in my education at a young age. This made me sensitive about my level of knowledge, which in turn made me hunker down in my local library. I did not think about that until my last essay. I hadn’t thought about how important and detrimental the library system was in bridging my knowledge gap. The last dot I had to connect is the idea of funding, and how it impacted my ability to learn. This seemed pretty straight forward, I agree.” You” as a citizen donate money, recyclable materials, or time; and this turns into funding for your community library.
But libraries are like rappers starting out in their careers, they need multiple sources of revenue. They have a need to be connecting with all sorts of organizations in order to acquire the resources they need. When I would hear the word funding at the library recently, my mind went towards money. After this last week of research I see now that Funding for a library can mean multiple things. And the benefits from this funding are not only tangible, they are far reaching.
I think we are living in a society that looks at donations as something that is forgotten once it is given. Which has been my reaction, in all honesty. Taking this course has opened my eyes to the direct benefits of funding, and they are truly far reaching. I can now clearly see how my little bit of time spent there at the library, has helped, if only a little bit in the grand scheme of things. Funding from different sources culminate into computers, weekend passes to museums, zoos, DVD’s, access to printing. This in turn has made the library a place that someone with limited options can go to and get help with whatever they might need.
Looking at the Research
Oregon.Gov, gives a great picture of where this crucial funding comes from. The Library Support and Development department, has a great overview and analysis of how funding works. “Each year, state funds in the Oregon State Library budget leverage a two-to-one match of federal funds under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) state block grant program. The LSTA state block grant program is administered at the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In 2012, the State Library received a block grant of $2,164,574. Around $677,000 of that block grant was awarded in competitive grants.” This made me feel better about my life. I know it’s a bit dramatic, but it is nice to know our taxes go towards something other than making the lives of others harder. Unfortunately this is not enough, when it comes to money, what is enough?
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, also has a great website with tons of information. I mean I can spend hours reading into the functions and intricacies of knowledge in our society. In my opinion, education is the key to the future, with information matched with a good education, we can change the world. If you need proof of this, look to history, all the big changes in the last 2,000 years have come about by an education or lack thereof. On the IMLS’s website, in the research section, I found some very interesting information. For instance did you know, “The Institute of Museum and Library Service’ Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) supports the agency in its efforts to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.
OPRE is organized to execute three key functions: policy research, program evaluation and data collection.” I also found that the legislation that guides this program is very hopeful. The OPRE’s functions are detailed in Section 9108 of the general provisions of the IMLS’ authoring legislation. “(1) State library administrative agencies; (2) national, State, and regional library and museum organizations; (3) other relevant agencies and organizations. The legislation further states that the policy research, analysis, and data collection shall be used to – (1) identify national needs for and trends in museum, library, and information services; (2) measure and reports on the impact and effectiveness of museum, library, and information services throughout the United States, including the impact of Federal programs authorized under this Act; (3) identify best practices; and (4) develop plans to improve museum, library and information services of the United States and to strengthen national, State, local, regional, and international communications and cooperative networks.”
How to Get Involved
Through my research and volunteer work, I have found some very interesting information. I have found hope and determination. I found hope in that the future can be ruled by an educated society of conscientious people. I have found the determination to keep trying to bring that about. I was lucky enough to find people who are also passionate about our community, and the effects they have in our daily lives. Through this course, at the library, at work, and through my friends, I have found a network of people who want to be engaged in creating something better for generations to come. That has been a great experience, and I am going to do my best to stay involved.
If you were ever wanting to get involved, I would say start at your local library. Once you walk in and ask your first question, you will have more than just an answer. If you follow my advice, you will have multiple ways of joining and volunteering for an organization that will give back to your community. That will allow you to participate in change.
I started out thinking that the community center, was there to literally get a class or borrow something. The reality is that the community center helps people connect with each other and their community. I saw parents find suitable babysitting at this place, or connect with other parents that had already done the leg work. I did have problems finding some of the books for my classes. Which would have been helpful. I am going to continue volunteering my time during the summer. I want to help expand the library services. How? I do not know. But considering that I started this project out not knowing how it would work, or what I would learn, I think I will figure it out.
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gate of Hope-not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the stringent gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of, “Everything is gonna be alright.” -Victoria Stafford, The Small Work In The Great Work (Pg.188)
“Oregon’s LSTA Program.” Oregon.Gov. Web. 30 May 2015.
“Research.” Institute of Museum and Library Services. Web. 30 May 2015.
“Free Report.” Wallace Foundation. Web. 09 May 2015.
Stafford, Victoria. The Small Work In The Great. New York. Basic Books. 2004. Print.