The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion America’s libraries need pandemic relief

Inside the newly renovated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on G St. in Washington on July 14. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Regarding the July 19 Arts&Style article “Renovated MLK Library is a beacon of hope”:

Since March, libraries across the nation, from grand structures to strip-mall spaces, have leaned into services needed by more Americans than ever.

Since the pandemic took hold, the Miami-Dade Public Library System has distributed more than 116,000 unemployment applications curbside to residents, with nearly 29,000 completed forms returned to library book drops to be sent for direct processing. The McCracken County Public Library in Kentucky has more than doubled the number of library card applications, the majority of which were students referred by local school districts for access to e-books required for remote learning. Learners of all ages tap into expanded WiFi in library parking lots across the nation.

Massive cuts endanger these and other services, as many of the nation’s nearly 370,000 library workers have been furloughed or laid off. Congress can address this by passing the Library Stabilization Fund Act, introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and in the House by Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).

The architecture of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library finally reflects — but will never equal — the value of the services it provides to D.C. residents. With or without beautiful building renovations, communities across the country deserve to keep the library services they depend on.

Julius C. Jefferson Jr., Washington

The writer is president of the
American Library Association.

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