Arne Duncan on Libraries in Economic Recovery
The U.S. Secretary of Education shares his views on volunteerism, No Child Left Behind, and reading readiness.
Posted Tue, 06/30/2009 - 16:22
American Libraries: With many libraries being forced to reduce hours because of funding problems, just when so many more people need service, what can the federal government do to help?
Arne Duncan: You hit the nail on the head. At a time of pretty significant increases in usage among children, among parents, among families, unfortunately we’re seeing hours cut and staffs cut. And so in the stimulus package there is an historic level of support for education coming from the federal government and over $100 billion of new money for education. We recognize the dire straits of tough economic times and the stress the states are under; however, it’s just so important that we keep our libraries—both school- and community-based—open and providing resources for families. I really think libraries can help to get our country back on its feet; it can help to get families back in the workforce, it can help families obtain education, it can help them with résumé writing, and it’s just a real jewel of a resource that I want to make sure we maximize the benefits of. This is an investment, not just in libraries but in our communities, families, in the country as a whole.
You visited the Fanwood Public Library in New Jersey today for the launch of the “United We Serve” initiative for volunteerism? What did you observe there about library services?
It’s a great library, and I met with librarians from all over the state and a few other places, and what I saw is what I saw in my neighborhood library back home in Chicago and in our neighborhood library now in D.C.: wonderfully committed staff, tremendous demand, a real willingness to reach out to the community and to reach out to the population, family literacy nights or families that are learning English for the first time, folks helping with résumé writing, with job hunting, on issues around foreclosures. It’s just this phenomenal resource. I have two young children at home, 5 and 7, and they’re avid library goers and they’re so proud to have library cards; so sort of first and foremost as a parent I just appreciate the leadership, the hard work. I would do whatever I can to support the great work libraries are doing around the country.