The children's area at the Bangor Public Library. Credit: Micky Bedell / BDN

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Jules Hathaway is a graduate student at the University of Maine and a volunteer at the Orono Public Library.

I think we can agree that in this pandemic a number of the institutions we count on have let us down. Our public libraries have, however, gone beyond the call of duty. After carefully researching the precautions necessary for safe loaning of resources, librarians have developed ingenious methods of service delivery such as drive-by pick up. They’ve also come together to share resources. Trucks zip between our state’s towns and cities, exchanging precious volumes.

All this is being done with a significant reduction in people power. Volunteers must stay away.

For many of us, with more free time and fewer opportunities to pursue other interests, libraries are truly precious resources. They can provide parents with ways to entertain and educate children. In a frightening epidemic where what we “know” from mass media changes constantly, they can be bastions of hope and reassurance.

In no-pandemic times, libraries are also important resources. There are programs ranging from arts and crafts instruction through local history to music concerts. Parents of little children can meet much-needed friends while their kids participate in story hours. Writers, knitters, and all sorts of other groups find space to gather. And you wouldn’t believe the items some libraries lend or share.

Sadly many of us take libraries for granted. This is a luxury we can’t afford. Libraries are far from guaranteed in a time when municipal finances are tight and corporations are very eager to privatize, commercialize, and earn huge profits from our love of reading. Fortunately April 4-10 is this year’s National Library Week. This year’s theme, “Welcome To Your Library,” reminds us that the reach of these important community centers goes way beyond their walls, something we’ve become very aware of recently, and that all are welcome. Your library is there for you through uncertain, as well as good, years. Maybe this would be the right time to appreciate all it provides and ask how you can give back.

There are a number of ways you can help libraries, even in a pandemic. One is to use their services. While having access to a wide range of engaging books and videos, you’re helping to boost the circulation statistics that show your library’s community relevance. Delivering to friends who can’t go themselves will also up the numbers while bringing joy to others.

Of course, libraries are always in need of money. Contribute or hold a fundraiser if you can. Keep your eye on your municipal budget. Informed and vocal voters pack a lot of clout when it comes to protecting valuable programs. Promote your library any way you can off or online.

Please don’t take libraries for granted. Remember some people see them as luxuries, low-hanging fruit when municipal budgets must be cut. Also don’t forget Amazon wants us to buy, rather than borrow, all our books, from them, of course.

I wouldn’t want to live in a world without libraries. Would you?