Today the Vermont Senate passed S.281, my bill that would create a working group to report on the status of libraries in Vermont. Below is an excerpt of the report I gave on the Senate floor about the bill, plus an awesome comic about dinosaurs, politicians, and librarians (really!).
I love libraries! I have fond memories of the public library in the small town where I grew up, the spot where I spent many Saturday mornings pouring through books while my mother ran errands in town. I have even fonder memories of the many hours I spent with my own children at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, and the bags of picture books we took home each week to read together on our couch.
Vermont has 251 towns and 183 libraries. My hometown of East Middlebury has about 350 people and also a public library, the lovely Sarah Partridge Community Library, which opens its doors each Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday to lend out books and host book groups, a knitting circle, community meetings, a preschool story-hour, a summer reading program, our town picnic, holiday craft market, and many other events and programs throughout the year.
In addition to public libraries, there are dozens of school and college or university libraries in Vermont, and a handful of specialty libraries too. Nearly every community in Vermont boasts a library of some sort within or close to its boundaries. Annually, Vermont libraries host about 3.2 million visits and nearly 28,000 programs, circulate over 4 million titles and enable nearly 1 million computer or wifi sessions. School libraries teach reading, media literacy, research, and critical thinking skills, host family events & community programs, provide a safe place to visit during school, and can be the only source of quality books for some children.
Public libraries are portals to government resources, snow shoes & ski passes, Lego-building contests, Narcan during an overdose, jugs of water during a drought, a safe place to stay afterschool, second-language classes, a friendly place to host your book group or political meeting, and always a place to find a good book. In our ever-changing, noisy and chaotic world, libraries are often the institution Vermonters trust the most to meet their needs regardless of age, socio-economic status, or geographic region.
Yet, despite their central role in the life of so many of our communities, the impact and needs of libraries are often forgotten. And while libraries open our worlds to stories beyond our imagination, the stories of our libraries themselves often go untold. And this is why S.281 was born.
The bill creates a working group, made up of Vermont librarians to create a report on the status of all libraries in Vermont to study and report on the statewide status of Vermont’s libraries, with the intent of strengthening and supporting libraries of all sizes and improving library services for the public. The report is designed to be comprehensive and may seem like an enormous task to complete in 18 months, but the list is long because librarians have said that they want to study all these things. They want to tell us what they do and how they could do it even better.
Librarians are resourceful people and I’ve been assured by the State Librarian and basically every librarian I’ve talked to that this group will be able to get the work done. Through my work on S.281, I have heard from dozens and dozens of Vermonters about their library memories and stories, and I have heard from almost as many librarians about the exciting things they do at their library. For many people, their library is a haven of safety, information, community, and entertainment. Libraries have touched the lives of so many of us and can be the hub of community activity for towns both big and small. Libraries are eager to tell us their story, so let’s help them go write it!