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What is National Library Week?

By K T Solis
Updated May 23, 2024
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Libraries are doorways to new worlds, allowing people access to information and literature. When someone visits a library, she has all the knowledge of the world at her disposal. This is why the United States recognizes the importance of libraries each year. National Library Week is the celebration of the contributions libraries and librarians have made to American society. School, public, academic, and special libraries participate in the annual celebration.

The celebration was established in 1958 and is observed each April. It promotes the use and support of all libraries. During the week-long event, Tuesday is set aside for National Library Workers Day. This special day celebrates the work of librarians, library staff, administrators, and Friends of the Library groups.

During the mid-1950s, it was discovered that Americans were spending more money on radios, televisions, and musical instruments instead of using their hard-earned money for books. In response to this dilemma, the American Library Association (ALA) partnered with American Book Publishers to create a nonprofit organization called the National Book Committee in the year 1954. The committee was designed to encourage American citizens to read during their free time and ultimately hoped to improve the overall health and income of the American family.

In 1957, the National Book Committee created a plan for National Library Week. The goal was simple — encourage people to read so they increase library use and support the library in its efforts to educate the public. By 1958, the committee introduced the slogan "Wake Up and Read!" National Library Week was celebrated for the first time that year.

The celebration was observed a second time in the year 1959. Soon, ALA voted to continue the celebration on an annual basis. When the National Book Committee dissolved in 1974, the ALA began to oversee National Library Week.

Today, the ALA provides bookmarks and posters promoting the event through their online store. Libraries throughout the U.S. sponsor a variety of activities in order to bring attention to the annual celebration. Sample activities may include storytimes, author appearances, book fairs, book-making events, and other programs that celebrate libraries.

Libraries stimulate the mind, encourage people to read, teach young children that books are exciting, and provide an endless source of information. Libraries can be found in almost every American city and provide programs and services that enrich the community. National Library Week celebrates the contributions of such libraries by encouraging people to take time to acknowledge the benefits of supporting the local library.

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Discussion Comments
By Clairdelune — On Oct 25, 2011

I appreciate all that librarians do, but I think that libraries could incorporate some other programs too.

Since there are a fairly high number of people who are illiterate and read on a level too low to function in the literate world, I think it would be a good idea for libraries to incorporate literacy education into the library program. What better place to teach literacy than in a building full of books. People can't read books until they learn to read.

By B707 — On Oct 24, 2011

@nextcorrea - As you are a librarian, I say "thank you" for all you and the many other librarians do to make is easier to access all the materials available at libraries. National Library Week is a great event for library employees and library goers alike.

I have used the library for many things - attended a book club sponsored by the library, volunteered at a library, found some sheet music, took my children to story time and other fun activities - all this besides borrowing books all the time.

I do use the internet for getting information, but I really prefer getting information at the library, which is usually more accurate and detailed than what you find on the internet.

Our libraries are open to everyone. There just needs to be more education so all know what is in the library and how to find what they need.

By drtroubles — On Oct 24, 2011

I really think that nowadays libraries are more important than ever. It seems to me that while library technology has grown people seem to think that you can still only get books in a physical library.

My library has a great online archive and there are oodles of classics available free for download. I think that National Library Week should really start to focus on advertising their additional services. For myself, I am so far from my city library I barely ever go there. There online site on the other hand is a great source of reading material for my family and I.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 23, 2011

There is usually a small community party in my downtown area to celebrate national library week. We have two university campuses that are located downtown and they have really helped our local library grow.

Our hometown doesn't have a lot of public library funding so our library was getting a bit rundown. The library actually partnered with the universities to spruce things up. Basically a wing of the library belongs to the universities, but you can access it with a special pass, and the extra money has gone to stock books for everyone else. I think we'll see more of these mergers in the future as more people grow up reading online.

By Oceana — On Oct 23, 2011

To people like me who grew up reading in the days before the internet, there will never be any substitute for holding an actual book in your hand. I'm sure that e-readers are great, but I prefer paper and ink.

I also prefer a trip to the library over a search on the web. I love the smell of old books, and I cherish the yellowed pages of books that have been read for decades by hundreds of people.

I will continue supporting my local library. As long as it exists, I will be one of its regular visitors.

By wavy58 — On Oct 23, 2011

My mother used to take me to storytime during National Library Week, and I always looked forward to it. In addition to being read a story, I got to participate in arts and crafts related to the story that the librarians had set up for us.

I remember hearing the story about a unicorn without a horn. After the librarian read it to us, she helped us draw our own unicorns. We made horns out of cardboard and glitter paint.

The past few years, I have been taking my nephew to storytime during this week of celebration. He loves it, and I will continue taking him as long as he is interested.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 22, 2011

I appreciate all the nice things that have been said about libraries here, but honestly, how important is this service in 2011? I go into my library and its always empty. People don't even use the computers. All the librarians are standoffish, I can't find anything I'm looking for and they have really goofy hours. I don't think these problems are unique to my library either.

Libraries are expensive and I think a lot of the reason we support them is out of some kind of nostalgic appreciation and a vague sense of duty to the poor. But lets be honest about the libraries of today. They are not as vital as they used to be. We should think about other ways we could use that public money that might do more good for more people.

By jonrss — On Oct 21, 2011

@nextcorrea - I couldn't agree with you more. I go to my local public library almost 5 days a week and I absolutely love it. They have everything I need to keep myself informed and entertained (I don't pay for cable, internet, smart phone data plans or netflix). They have a regular schedule of interesting events including movies, speakers, group projects and discussions. All the librarians are so nice and smart and they have pointed me towards so much great stuff I would not have known about otherwise. Basically, I love my library.

Around library week they always have at least a few events and i try to attend as often as I can One year I was actually so excited that i printed up fliers and distributed them to all of my neighbors. And you now what, a lot of them showed up. I think that most people like the library, sometimes they just need a little reminder of what a special service it is in our communities.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 21, 2011

I am a librarian and probably get more excited about National Library Week than anyone else. It is not just because this is one of the few time that the work of librarians gets recognized, it is also because this is one of the few times that the benefits of libraries in general gets discussed.

Libraries are the anchors of their communities and more important than ever. We tend to think that because of the internet and Google that libraries are not necessary anymore. In fact they are more important than ever. Information is complicated and expensive. Getting access is out of reach for many in our society. Libraries are fundamental democratic institutions and these days they help ensure that any and all can get access to the information they need to live successful lives in the 21st century.

So when National Library Week rolls around go tell your librarian that you appreciate them and all that they do. And encourage your friends to visit the library. I bet most of them will be surprised at how much great stuff they can get for free.

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