On Celebrating & Supporting Public Spaces

If you find yourself with extra leisure time over the holidays, why not try visiting your local library? Or any other public space for that matter—they are treasure troves of goodness to explore.
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The Fold's Managing Editor, Brooke Klauer, is professing her not-so-secret love for the local library. We asked her to give us a glimpse into where she’ll be spending much of her holiday free-time, how to take advantage of its offerings, and why public spaces are pertinent for community growth. 

Last weekend I came home with a brown grocery bag overflowing with well-used and well-loved books. My husband glanced at my haul, I shrugged, and that said it all (as it always does): I know, I know, more books. My two oldest children came barreling in behind me with their loot, fresh from the Friends of the Library book sale. It’s a well-known and oft-proclaimed fact with my family: I love the library.

I love borrowing books, buying books from the used-books room, donating books, paying book fines even (let’s call it a donation to my favorite public space, yes?). I am, on average, at my local library three days out of the week, with any smattering of children in tow. And it almost feels like my own hidden treasure: When I start singing its praises, or casually drop into conversation that I was at the library (again), my girlfriend will usually raise a brow with hesitation written all over her face. (Yes, really! You should go!) But, truly, my favorite reaction is the crinkle of the library book cover when I plunk down a well-loved copy at my monthly book club get together—and my girlfriends shake their knowing heads.

(Mom, I attribute my love for this space to you, because of all those elementary years when I spent every Wednesday at my childhood local library—school dismissed at noon and, with a working mom, it was up to me to walk the mile from school to the library with my younger brother. At which time we would have four glorious hours to explore her shelves un-tethered—and un-supervised I might add. Just do your homework! you said. I'll be there soon! So thank you for working so hard for us, and for using the library as an unintentional babysitter. She was the best.)

Just last week I finished a smattering of books about the importance of reading to children, which only reinforced the importance of carving out the time to visit the library. And, yes, it is the actual books that draw me and my kids there, but the space also teaches so many invaluable lessons: borrowing and respecting property, enlisting adult (hi, librarians) help, navigating language and numerical signs, using appropriate behavior in a shared space...to name a few. (And lest you think it’s all about my children, do be sure to reference the cookbook section—one of my personal favorite aisles to browse.)

So on the cusp of holiday free-time, I am here to encourage you to visit your local library—or any public space for that matter. They are community-building gathering places for those like you and unlike you. And because also with the constant barrage—guilt even—over what can I do about the state of the world? it feels right to support public institutions, especially one that instills basic humanitarian rights: learning and literacy. Promoting education and serving communities through resources like computer classes, children’s read-alouds, speaker and author series, academic databases, media literacy and so much more, libraries are a treasure trove of assets. Take advantage.

But don't just listen to me; I want you to see for yourself. Here are a few ways to support your local library, or any public space for that matter: 

Join: Membership is important to show support and help keep funding. Connections matter, and this one connects you to community. 

Visit: Frequent the library! Or whatever public space speaks to you. It is there for a reason, and nothing is more important than the people who visit regularly.  

Use: Libraries are free educational resource centers for everyone, everywhere. Often they are community hubs, and many serve underrepresented populations. Do your research on what the library (or again, your preferred public space) offers—its wealth of knowledge is invaluable. 

Encourage: Talk about your local public spaces. Tell everyone you know about how they benefit you and what they offer. Many of us just plain forget about these spaces that offer so much (for free!).

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