National Library Week has been celebrated since 1958, but as this year’s celebration comes to a close, my main takeaway is that libraries are still very much trying to define their role in a world of ebooks, online databases, and social media.  The American Library Association sponsors the week, and the theme this year is “Lives change @ your library.”  The focus of the ALA very much seems to be on the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.  It does provide some interesting food for thought:

  • Libraries empower the individual.
  • Libraries support literacy and lifelong learning.
  • Libraries strengthen families.
  • Libraries are the great equalizer.
  • Libraries build communities.
  • Libraries protect our right to know.
  • Libraries strengthen our nation.
  • Libraries advance research and scholarship.
  • Libraries help us to better understand each other.
  • Libraries preserve our nation’s cultural heritage.

Curiously enough, some of the celebrations of National Library Week had nothing to do with libraries.  For instance, Oxford University Press offered free access to a number of its online resources.  ProQuest also had a similar promotion.  Given that many people wonder aloud what electronic resources mean for the long-term viability of libraries, it’s an interesting time for these publishers to choose for these promotions.

Some of the most interesting acknowledgments that I saw about National Library Week came from Parade.  They posted a gallery of nine of America’s most beautiful libraries.  Although libraries are increasingly reaching patrons online, there are still some exquisite architectural specimens out there.  Parade also excerpted an essay by Ann Patchett that’s included in Robert Dawson’s book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).  Patchett offers a simple definition of a library: “a collection of books, however many or few, that are loaned out and gathered back.”  She implicitly comments on one of the assertions in the Declaration for the Right to Libraries — that of libraries as the great equalizer — by calling on those who have more resources (and, therefore, may not need the resources their public libraries) to support libraries as the place where people go to find a better life.  May this better life continue being what libraries deliver, 52 weeks out of the year.