Librarians and library supporters around the world have a deep knowledge and understanding of the vital role that public libraries play in every community. Unfortunately, there are many others that do not fully understand all of what public libraries can do. An example of that came today when Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report—titled “Wastebook 2012”–that included examples that Sen. Coburn believes are $18 billion worth of wasteful spending of federal taxpayer dollars over the last year.
Sen. Coburn took exception in his report with $365.00 of federal money for a recent teen Star Wars event at the Abington Public Library in Massachusetts. This event, where participants were encouraged to dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters, was designed to get teens into the public library and interested in reading and science. The event was educational in nature, and was designed to teach teens about the science behind Star Wars and help to develop their cognitive development, and reading and motor skills. This event was attended by more than 100 people, and resulted in the highest attendance for a Saturday that the Abington Public Library had ever seen.
The $365.00 was a small part of a $11,700 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) sub-grant that the Massachusetts Library Commission awarded to the Abington Public Library for two years of programming to expand services and to introduce at-risk-youth to their public library. The $365.00 used for the Star Wars event represented three percent of the total grant the library received.
In a time where American schools are being surpassed by other developed nations, attacking effective, creative, educational programs is not the way to get the United States back on top. The American Library Association would like to work further with Senator Coburn and his staff so he too can understand, just like librarians and library supporters, how libraries can better our communities. The very small amount of federal dollars used for the program was not waste, but was instead new and creative ways to get teens and young readers excited about public libraries, reading, and science.
According to IMLS, other programs used from the Library Services and Technology Act grant included:
- Form or strengthen a Teen Advisory Board (TAB)
- With input from the TAB, develop creative programming strategies to reach out and meet the needs of tweens and teens
- Develop collections of materials including books, books on tape, CDs, magazines, games, graphic novels and DVDs; collections should be aligned, in part, with material needed by the middle/high school students as part of standards and curriculum frameworks.
- Examine the library’s “teen space” and have it meet the goals set by the teen board. This may include limited redesign.