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Guest Opinion: Libraries live on with community support

By Erin Schoenberg

Recently, rural Americans have missed out on many services usually offered in their communities.

However, library employees have worked even harder to provide for their patrons. For example, in Wayne, Nebraska, library staff have stepped up to show their community how resilient small-town libraries can be.

A week after closing to the public, the library initiated curbside book pickup. They are also offering virtual assistance to patrons through online resources like Ebooks and audiobooks, online databases, learning games, language learning apps, and more.

Libraries across rural America, large and small, are facing similar challenges and are responding in like ways. Though obstacles have been thrown at them, libraries continue to be a refuge. Libraries are solid, neutral spaces where all people can feel welcome. They’re a place where age, income, religion, and other socioeconomic factors don’t present barriers that might be found elsewhere.

That sense of belonging and welcome, combined with the staff’s adaptability and willingness to work to meet the needs of their community are what make these institutions so revered.

Rural libraries across the U.S. have faced adversity before, but they face it head on, ready for whatever is thrown at them.

Libraries are part of the core of rural communities. They’re always evolving to provide the best services to everyone in town, and those who make the trek from more remote farms and ranches. In addition, libraries have embraced technology and, in doing so, have helped students and seniors access the most current information, tools, and services.

We’re encouraged to see rural public libraries get creative as they expand their virtual outreach, explore new services and technology, all the while not letting go of their traditional paper bound books.

Erin Schoenberg is a project associate for the Center for Rural Affairs.

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