Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Cassandra Elton.
I was in kindergarten when I got my first library card. The two requirements for a child’s library card at our public library in Summit, New Jersey were you had to have a parent cosign the card with you and you had to be able to write your own name. I remember standing on tip-toe with the blue ball point pen clenched in my hand writing my name just like I’d practiced so many times at school and at home.
And then it was mine! My very own library card. Sure, my mom held on to it for me since I was only 6, but still! The possibilities were endless. Now I could check out my very own books from the library. My mom would give me one of our library totes (various canvas bags we used just for library visits) and I could go around the children’s section selecting the books that I wanted to read or have read to me. I was in control.
This feeling of excitement and ownership is something I think every child should have the opportunity to experience. Libraries are amazing institutions where kids are safe and free to explore and learn how they choose.
Classrooms in schools are important, but libraries are where kids are free to direct their own learning. You love outerspace? Check out these books on the solar system, with facts about and pictures of the planets. Interested in dragons? Look at all these fantasy books where humans train dragons or fight them fearlessly. Fairy tales? There are a million and one different reinventions of the classic fairy tale and they are all here at your fingertips.
I, like many of you, am a current library and information science graduate student. I moved from the East Coast to Iowa City for grad school at the University of Iowa where I now live with my husband, our puppy, and five part-time jobs between the two of us.
But I also have a library. Or rather, I am working to have a library. It’s called the Antelope Lending Library. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It was mentioned on a previous HackLibSchool post a few weeks back. (So exciting!)
The Antelope Lending Library will serve the Southeast side of Iowa City, an area known for its lower-income and immigrant populations. The residents on this side of town don’t make it to the downtown public library for story time at 11 am on Thursdays or 10 am Tech Help on Wednesdays. These working-class families still need library services, but need them closer to home, at times that allow for their work schedules.
That’s what the Antelope Lending Library is all about.
Located in the Sycamore Mall, the library will be within walking distance of 4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, 2 high schools, and one community college. That means that kids can walk to our library after school instead of having to rely on parents who are tired after a long day of work to take them downtown to check out books.
Libraries are important. I’m not saying anything new here: we all know its true. But just because there is a library in a city doesn’t mean that it’s serving everyone who lives in that city.
One of my jobs is working at an after-school program at a local elementary school. The kids I work with on a daily basis do not make it downtown regularly. Many of them have lived in Iowa City for years, but have been to the public library only a handful of times. It shouldn’t be this way. I want to help even the playing field for these kids by offering library services to them and their families in their own community.
Our library will offer evening story times, so working parents can bring their kids. We will offer English as a Second Language classes for immigrant families to improve their language skills so parents don’t have to rely on their elementary school-age children to translate for them. We will have writing workshops and science events to help get kids excited about learning and develop skills that they are interested in. We already have community partners who are excited about the possibility of using our library space for their own community outreach and we are excited to let them.
But we can’t do this without you.
We are currently fundraising on IndieGoGo for our first year of rent—$20,000. By donating even just $10 you are helping children improve their reading skills, adults improve their language skills, and providing a space for an entire community to come together and learn.
Fundraising is hard. And it takes a long time. They say that it takes seven points of contact for most people to finally donate to a cause. That’s a lot of emailing, tweeting, Facebooking and just plain talking to get the word out there. But I think it’s worth it, don’t you? Please take the time to donate and spread the word about our project.
Help us put a library card in the hands of a child today.
Cassandra Elton is a current Library and Information Science student at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She has a BA in English and has studied abroad in Spain and Ecuador. She is interested in community outreach and providing information services to all populations. Find her on Twitter (@CassandraElton) and follow her current community project at antelopelendinglibrary.org.