Invest in Equity, Invest in Local Libraries

Image by Shutter Z via Shutterstock

OPINION – The most cost-effective instrument of equity is a library card. Library cards offer 24-hour-a-day access to opportunity to any Californian who wants one. Anyone, regardless of circumstance, is eligible for a library card, which are provided at no cost.

Here’s just some of what a library card in California connects you to, either in person or online:

All kinds of books, of course, on every subject imaginable. Magazines, newspapers, manga, graphic novels. All in multiple languages that reflect California’s wonderous diversity.

In many libraries, you can also check out tools, use a 3D printer, journey into virtual reality, record some tunes, print a book or participate in any of the nearly 150,000 public programs that local libraries offer every day from ukelele mastery to tax preparation and financial planning.

You can also check out a special pass that covers admission to 200 of California’s world renown state parks.

Online, a library card lets you finish high school; and get a degree. The card lets you use Britannica, read the New York Times, explore National Geographic for Kids or “check-out” movies, games and eBooks. To ensure everyone has access to eBooks, the State Library is building a statewide eBook library with hundreds of thousands of titles that every Californian can access through their own local library.

Retool or reinvent yourself through CAreer Pathways, thousands of free online upskilling and job training classes and videos from platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare. The annual cost for a person to access everything in CAreer Pathways on their own runs to $1,000.

It takes librarians and thousands of other hard workers to make the magic happen in California’s 1,127 libraries. There’s a special day honoring all of them on April 25.

And if some homework help is needed, there’s online tutoring in multiple languages available every day at every library in the state.

Library cards may not cost anything to the more than 21 million Californians who have one, but library services do. It takes librarians and thousands of other hard workers to make the magic happen in California’s 1,127 libraries. There’s a special day honoring all of them on April 25.

The governor and the Legislature are investing in helping communities renovate and modernize their libraries. Twenty-first century services can’t be delivered in mid-century modern buildings. The need is still greater than the funding currently available, however.

Some of these extraordinary things a library card provides access to are paid for with one-time funds and will need to be renewed. What’s needed to keep library cards providing the kind of economic, social and personal benefits they do now is a commitment by cities, counties and the state to steady, ongoing investment.

That should be an easy decision given the return on investment libraries deliver for the communities they serve.

This week is National Library Week, but libraries work their magic 52 weeks out of the year. Invest in yourself with a library card and keep investing in libraries.

Greg Lucas has been the California State Librarian since May of 2014. One of his goals is to put a library card in the hands of every Californian.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: