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I’m Obsessed With Libraries and You Should Be Too

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

I love libraries, and, honestly, if you don’t, then you might want to stop reading. 

I’ve grown up in them, studied in them and recently started working in them. Libraries have offered me everything I want, from books to quiet space to even a good London Fog. And not to be that guy, but the whole library and librarian “aesthetic” has been actually a major life goal of mine. In fact, over the past couple of semesters, I’ve come to the conclusion that Library Science is the graduate program for me, and I’m so excited to become a librarian. 

I’ve been working for my university library for a year now, which has solidified my love for libraries and helped to advance my skill set. But, I had a new library experience this summer when I was hired for a Customer Service position in the Mid-Continent Public Library system, which has over 30 branches across three counties in the Kansas City Metro area. Over the course of the summer, I met wonderful people, learned a ton and found a sense of renewed respect for public libraries.

As part of my training, I learned about the history of the Mid-Continent Library system, and it got me thinking about how libraries have evolved in the United States. Libraries have existed since 1731, the Library Company of Philadelphia contested as the first. Library cards and member-supported libraries were the foundation of public libraries, which were officially established in the 1830s, but expansion into academic libraries and subject-specific libraries happened soon after. As time went on, libraries expanded so much that the American Library Association (ALA) was established in October 1876. The American Library Association’s mission statement is, “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all,” and the ALA offers guidance from graduate assistance to advocacy. Today, over 100,000 libraries stand in the United States, including about 17,000 public libraries. 

The services libraries provide have also expanded significantly. From books to Passports and GED courses, libraries have it all. One branch of the Mid-Continent system has a publishing machine, and another library in the works will serve as a community culinary center. Mid-Continent also has the Midwest Genealogy Center, the United States’ largest free-standing genealogy center. Many libraries offer career services, public computers and a safe, relaxed environment.

In terms of more specialized options, many academic libraries offer services exclusive to their programs or their religious and historical connections. For example, Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Memorial Library is a government repository, meaning it receives and houses government files and artifacts. Pius Library also houses the Vatican Film Library and other unique items in its archives. Academic libraries have countless resources for learning, but even famous local landmarks like The Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis have an archive, so the possibilities are endless. 

Libraries, public or otherwise, are gems in their communities. The services, books and safe environment they provide are necessary even in our modern, digital world. However, libraries are often among the easiest targets for political and community backlash. The swath of U.S. counties and school boards advocating for censoring or removing books from collections, along with hiking federal inflation rates and taxes, have made libraries vulnerable. The goal of libraries is to encourage learning and literacy, and it saddens me to see people try to shut that down. But on the bright side, many activists, librarians and officials are trying to keep libraries safe. In the end, it’s all about being able to read, relax and learn. And coming from a librarian, we need them as much as they need us. 

This is not sponsored content for Mid-Continent Public Library.

Class of 2023! We keep it real around here. Librarian and matcha enjoyer. (she/they)