Ingrid Abrams is a children’s and teen librarian at Brooklyn Public Library in New York City. Natalie V. Binder is a systems librarian at the Jefferson County R.J. Bailar Public Library in Monticello, FL. The two have never met in person, yet they have teamed up virtually to create Libraries Changed My Life (LCML), a Tumblr initiative in direct response to Michael Rosenblum’s article “What’s a Library?”, which was published in the Huffington Post this past May.
The post by Rosenblum, the founder of Current TV, posited on the growing irrelevance of libraries—and earned the ire of librarians and library supporters everywhere. After several discussions over Twitter on how best to respond, Abrams and Binder established LCML, they say, so that people from all walks of life could share how libraries have made an impact on their lives.
With ongoing budget cuts being made to libraries across the country, their grassroots endeavor aims to bring attention to the resources that these institutions provide to their communities. Of the nearly 50 posts published since its inception on May 13, the majority of entries on LCML are from library users—not library staff.
“We don’t mind submissions from librarians, but we prefer non-librarian [posts],” Abrams tells School Library Journal. “We do our own advocacy, and that’s important. When I advocate, it’s me fighting for my job. But this platform is for the voices that are not being heard. These messages are straight from the patrons themselves.”
Posts highlight the variety of ways that public and school libraries have influenced and shaped the lives of these users, from being a home away from not-so-safe home to helping a person with Asperger’s socialize with other people. In a recent entry, children’s book author Tim Federle shares, “[The library] saved me and changed my life. It was a free workspace in a city defined by its expenses. I wrote vast chunks of my first novel at a library. I return to it now as a kind of church, where the only praying I do involves hoping I’ll complete a chapter before the security guards start switching off the lights.” Other authors have told their own library stories, including Sara Farizan and Marilyn Johnson.
Library staples like storytime, research, internet use, and books are also mentioned on the micro-blog, showcasing the diverse needs of the general community.
“Rosenblum implied that only poor people use library for internet. I don’t appreciate that a place that serves under-resourced people is considered bad,” Abrams says. “But average people use the library every day. We try to show that by posting a variety of users: authors, teachers, and students.”
One high school student from Saegertown, PA goes a step further and includes on the site his petition to stop library cuts in his own school district; it’s been widely shared.
Abrams and Binder encourage all types of submissions, whether visual, video, or anonymous. They can also be sent through the Tumblr website, email, or regular mail. Abrams adds, “We hope that LCML can be a standing reminder that libraries do matter. Even if we don’t always have the funding to back that up, we have the people to back that up.”