The following op-ed, written for National Library Week, is co-authored by Paula Ellis, vice president/strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, Deborah Jacobs, director, Global Libraries Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Julie Stasch, vice president of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation. Above: The Seattle Public Library, photo credit: Flickr user Joel Down.
For many of us, the public library will always be synonymous with books.
The books drew us to the library in the first place, helped us discover new worlds—both real and imaginary—beyond our day-to-day experiences.
Libraries continue to embody that same spirit of search and discovery, but in a manner that has been transformed as dramatically as the way we generate, share, and consume information. They make this new digital era available to all Americans.
In Chicago, for example, an innovative space at the main public library called YOUmedia lets any teen with a city library card have in-house access to computers plus video and audio recording equipment, to create their own content with the help of a mentor. At another YOUmedia space in Miami, workshops help teens think critically and creatively about their lives, by teaching them to publish an autobiographical digital story, or to visualize their favorite books. In a world where information is increasingly available, learning to analyze it, create it, and make it your own is a valued skill.