I’ve long had a love affair with libraries. I grew up as a middle grade student wandering rows of dusty stacks and checking out piles of books. I did research in my high school and college libraries. I went to library school and learned how to make my own library the center of our learning community. Now, I download new books from my local library. I go to write there, and dig into archives and bookstacks galore for nuggets and facts to add to my historical novels and articles.
Those are all great things and I’m so grateful for all of them. This is a different kind of love letter to libraries. I’m thinking of middle grade students today, getting ready to leave school for a long break, to spend their time sipping hot chocolate or sledding, or maybe reading all the books they got as gifts.
But what about those students whose families lack resources? What does their winter break look like? It’s cold here this week. We’ve been sick at our house. What if we had no way to deal with those issues? Worse still, what if one of your students doesn’t? I can’t get this thought out of my head. My imagination begins to run wild and I start to worry about kids like the ones in the first school where I taught, the kids who shared one coat between siblings through the winter. Who depended on a meal – free or reduced lunch during the school year, or the sandwiches that were served in the cafeteria during the summer on the same day the book mobile came to school.
Libraries help – without regard to socio-economic status or religion or race or just about anything. Libraries help.
Here’s what my local libraries do about this problem that won’t leave my mind.
Some libraries provide cold weather shelter for homeless people. The Everett Public Library provides resources on its home page .
The Sno-Isle Regional Library system also posts resources on its site. In addition, every branch library’s home page lists the cold weather shelter in their neighborhood alongside the library contact information at the top of the page. Why is this important?
In our area, this past January’s One Night Count in Seattle showed that over 4500 people slept outside, and around 30 of those were children. Where I live and work, that is a whole classroom full of kids – or two.
In my own county to the north, this was the most striking paragraph for me from the countywide Point in Time Survey:
“Precariously Housed Independent Children (17 & Under) Twenty-two children between the ages of 12 and 17 were found to be living on their own, in a precariously housed situation. The average age of this group was 16.3 years old. Three additional children were found living together as one household, one of them the dependent child of a teenage couple. This household stated they spent the previous night temporarily living with family or friends.”
Thinking about kids – the ones we teach and reach each week (or the ones we can’t) being outside in the cold makes me crazy. But there is hope: alongside city and county agencies, libraries are joining the work and the conversation about homelessness. I will leave you with this document created by the American Library Association: Extending Our Reach: Reducing Homelessness Through Library Engagement
What services does your library provide?