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60 years of National Library Week: ‘Libraries Lead’

By Maureen Schlangen

In 1958, long before folic acid, salt, nurses, agriculture, food allergies, robotics and handwashing had their own awareness weeks, the American Library Association launched National Library Week, a campaign to keep Americans reading in what ALA publicity chair Willis Kerr in 1922* called “the fight against ignorance, indifference, illiteracy and inefficiency.”

The fight continues … with libraries still on the front line. 

With the theme “Wake Up and Read,” the first National Library Week featured a patriotic poster with a bald eagle clutching arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. The tagline: “For a better-read better-informed America.” Goals ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.”

This year’s 60th-anniversary celebration, “Libraries Lead” (April 8-14), highlights the leadership of libraries and library workers in their communities and the role of libraries in helping patrons develop leadership skills. Its honorary chair is Misty Copeland, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and author of New York Times bestsellers Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (2014) and Ballerina Body (2017). Her 2014 picture book Firebird won the Coretta Scott King Book Illustrator Award in 2015.

  • National Library Workers Day (April 10), recognizing valuable contributions made by library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups.
  • National Bookmobile Day (April 11), recognizing the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.
  • Take Action for Libraries Day (April 12), a library advocacy effort.

On campus, the University Libraries are celebrating National Library Week concurrently with UD Pride Week and National Poetry Month. Some highlights:

  • Food for Fines: The Libraries will waive $1 of overdue fines on UD materials (excluding OhioLINK items) for each donation of a labeled nonperishable food item. All foods will be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.
  • Write a haiku ... win a prize: Stop by Roesch Library’s first-floor lobby to post your entry.
  • Accessorize: Pronoun buttons and rainbow buttons will be available by the first floor bulletin board.
  • Inform: Students in the Spectrum organization will create a Pride Week bulletin board for the first-floor lobby.
  • Share: Post what you love about libraries on social media with @roeschlibrary and the hashtags #NationalLibraryWeek and #LibrariesLead.
  • Read a book for pleasure. Then read another. Repeat ad infinitum.
  • Presents: Bring your favorite librarian some flowers. Better yet ... a bag of pretzels. Note: The vending machines have been moved to the fourth floor for the Roesch Refresh renovation. The pretzels are option C1.
* Citation: Kerr, Willis H. “National Library Week: The Publicity Committee’s Proposal.” Bulletin of the American Library Association, Volume 16. Chicago: American Library Association, 1922. Cited in Landgraf, Greg. “‘Wake Up and Read’ to ‘Libraries Lead’: The 60-year history of National Library Week.” American Libraries, March/April 2018.
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