Library advocates turned The Park @ ALA in the exhibit hall into a sea of blue as they gathered for a Saturday morning rally marking the last mile of ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo’s Libraries = Strong Communities national advocacy effort.
Libraries = Strong Communities sought to highlight the value of academic, public, and school libraries, and to create a groundswell of support at local, state, national, and global levels. Rally attendees wore blue T-shirts with the Libraries = Strong Communities slogan, and state chapter representatives lifted signs inscribed with their state names.
“Over the past year, I have taken my Libraries = Strong Communities message across the country and the world,” Garcia-Febo told the crowd gathered on the park. “It has been a long journey, but a rewarding one that I believe will have a lasting impact on how libraries will connect with their communities in the future.”
During the Libraries = Strong Communities tour, she traveled more than 200,000 miles and toured academic, public, and school libraries in more than seven countries.
In addition to Garcia-Febo, Nicholas Brown, president of the District of Columbia Library Association, and Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library, spoke.
Brown pointed out that his association is celebrating its 125th anniversary, with a rich history that has seen former librarians of congress serve as president.
He spoke in favor of a bill, HR 51, that would grant statehood to the District of Columbia. “For libraries, it’s a huge opportunity to gain more voices in Congress that have a say, not just on the library funding bills, but also on every social issue that is reflective of our values as a community,” including intellectual freedom, copyright and net neutrality.
Reyes-Gavilan talked about Libraries = Strong Communities from the local perspective. He said, “We are really in just a phenomenal ongoing renaissance in public libraries here in DC.”
Ten years ago, he said, the approximately 25 facilities in the system “were all falling apart. They were all pretty much decrepit. None of them were serving their communities the way they needed to.”
That changed in 2009 with the modest renovation of the Takoma Park Library. Since then, he said, the district has rebuilt or modernized 19 additional library buildings. Four library buildings are under design or construction, including the 400,000-square-foot central library, set to open next year after a $211 million modernization.
“In total, Washington, D.C. is spending approximately half a billion dollars on library buildings on one of the most aggressive capital campaigns that exists anywhere in the entire country.”
He said the D.C. library system builds strong communities by embedding in library buildings community partners that provide essential services to returning citizens, first-time home buyers, and the homeless.
The celebration ended with a cake decorated with the Libraries=Strong Communities logo.