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The External Gaze

As library people, we spend a lot of time thinking about the role of public libraries, both in our local communities and in society today. We also strive to advocate strongly for awareness, recognition, and, of course, funding.

Some of our strongest advocates, however, are external individuals, organizations  and media. I hope you will find some of these quotes and sources I found both interesting and compelling. Some are general comments, others are specifically about the role of rural and small libraries. So, what do they think about us?

Deborah James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic December 23, 2019: “A Portrait of Public Libraries” which looks at a number of libraries, big and small – emphasizing the vital importance of children’s collections, services and programs in her interviews and observations. She sees this as our key role.

Norah Lenstra is a contributor to an organization called (not a library site). Their focus is “powered solutions for the common good”. Her March 4, 2021 article, “Rules of the Road: partnering with public libraries for collective impact” focuses on the flexibility of public libraries and their innovative approaches. I love one quote she gives, from Aimee James, Director of the Wilkes  County Public Library in the Appalachian Mountains: “As long as it benefits our patrons and it is not illegal, I’m willing to try anything once.”

Wired Magazine’s March 25, 2020 article “COVID 19’s Impact on Libraries Goes Beyond Books” describes the impact public libraries have in both “normal” and pandemic times.

Here is an older example, but still worth re-reading. “A Library Where Everybody Knows Your Name” by Steve Barker in the Washington Post April 15, 2016. It champions the idea of small libraries in our society. Indeed, that we are the future. Read it, and you’ll feel better about everything!

So, as we struggle with fundraising, budgets and day-to-day concerns, remember how much we matter, and I happen to agree: we small and rural libraries are the future!

(From the archives: written September 2021 by your Boundary representative, Mary)