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Visitor essay: The library you see is everybody’s library

by Tracy Grimm

Historically, we consider libraries as buildings the place books will be borrowed as an alternative of bought. In the present day, libraries in the US and all over the world are a lot extra. A brand new interactive exhibit at WVU Libraries, “Hacking the Library,” asks artists, librarians and the general public to share how they’ve used libraries and what libraries imply to them.

The phrase “hacking” might make you consider discovering a shortcut, altering one thing to make it work higher or adapting one thing to allow success. Libraries haven’t all the time been open to everybody, however they’ve grown as society has and have been responding and adapting to the wants in our communities, whether or not that could be a city, a college or a college.

You could have heard of the Kentucky librarians who, as a part of the WPA Library Program in the course of the Despair, delivered library books on pack horses to distant areas of the state. Our grandparents or great-grandparents probably would have been conversant in the American Library Affiliation’s (ALA) service work that collected donations and arranged thousands and thousands of books to be despatched to United States troopers throughout World Warfare I and thru its Victory Guide Marketing campaign in partnership with the Pink Cross and the USO throughout World Warfare II.

Libraries and librarians even have a historical past of serving the expansion of people. Books encountered whereas we’re younger can assist us think about all that we will be and assist us uncover the potential of our distinctive selves. Many instances, we can’t know potentialities if we don’t encounter them in tales and thus be impressed to dream of them.

For instance, in my 30-year profession as a particular collections librarian, I had the chance to work with quite a few retired U.S. astronauts and their households. Books have been an vital a part of their journeys. Astronaut Janice Voss spoke of being impressed to a profession in science and changing into an astronaut by her favourite guide, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” A lot so, she took a duplicate of the guide on her first House Shuttle flight. Throughout a broadcast in the course of the Apollo 11 moon touchdown mission, Neil Armstrong referenced “Voyage to the Moon” and Jules Vern’s imagined moon touchdown and return to Earth.

In the present day, libraries and librarians present house and assets for a lot of actions and providers to assist folks, together with venues to develop concepts for companies, entry Wi-Fi or a pc to do homework, put together a resume or submit a tax return or meet with the Lego membership or Bridge membership to maintain minds rising and sharp.

Libraries curate displays and supply areas for folks to suppose, discover and share ideas past their on a regular basis. Libraries, in different phrases, are extra than simply books. Libraries are pathways to particular person development and wholesome communities.

For these causes, libraries proceed to be treasured assets in most communities.

For these causes, WVU Libraries is dedicated to equitable entry to info for all customers and to service the group during which we work.

For these causes, we proceed to evolve and “hack” what we do and the way we do it. WVU Libraries is an institutional member of and upholds the ALA’s dedication to libraries as important areas for all folks to soundly discover and entry details about the world round them. We uphold the West Virginia Library Fee’s assist of libraries roles in “growing a tradition that values studying, schooling and freedom of entry to info.”

Final week, I used to be getting a espresso close to campus after I overheard a college librarian telling a brand new graduate scholar about a number of the free analysis instruments and help the library can present her. The scholar expressed aid, amazement and honest gratitude. Who is aware of, perhaps this scholar would be the first individual, perhaps a West Virginian, to set foot on Mars.

Please assist your group library and librarians.

LEARN MORE: “Hacking the Library” exhibit runs now by June 2024 in WVU’s Downtown Library. There can even be a free Artists Digital Dialogue on Jan. 26, 2024, through Zoom.

Tracy Grimm is the affiliate dean for Particular Collections and Exhibitions at WVU Libraries.