Dept. of Public Instruction: Building Worlds in Your Local Public Library

A joint editorial by State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly and State Librarian Tessa Michaelson Schmidt

When we were kids, we both loved going to our local public libraries. If our parents wondered where we were, there was a good chance they would find us in a corner of the library, our noses in a book, our minds on a journey into a new adventure found in its pages. Reading connected us to a larger world and helped us understand our place in it; libraries have made this possible.

Today, many years later, they still do. Public libraries are spaces open to all, spaces where people come to connect – to connect with stories, with ideas and with each other. All stories – in the form of books, audiobooks, music, movies, conversations with your neighbor you meet at checkout – create connection and empathy. If a book opens you up to new experiences, it gives you the opportunity to explore another perspective; if it reflects your own experience, it gives you the opportunity to deepen your own understanding of yourself. Often stories exist within this spectrum, both stretching perspective and reflecting self, and this insight is powerful. Libraries also house a range of ideas. When you engage with books, music, movies, or newspapers in your local libraries, you will find materials that affirm your own beliefs, and you will find materials that challenge them. What a gift to be able to access a diversity of thought! Beyond materials, our local libraries connect people to each other through learning opportunities, assistance in accessing services and building community.

When an author writes fantasy or science fiction, part of their creativity is world building, the process of constructing a fictional universe for their characters to inhabit and for their storyline to unfold within. interior. In many ways, libraries also create worlds, as they connect us to stories, ideas and people we would never have known otherwise. Public libraries enrich our world by deepening our understanding of the real and the imaginary, the other and the self, the new and the old; in doing so, they strengthen our state. They are progressively democratic institutions rooted in and responsive to their communities. That’s why, at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, we support equity of access to library materials and freedom to read for all Wisconsin residents throughout their lives. This National Library Week, visit your public library and see how your world expands! And while you’re at it, take a moment to thank the staff at your local library!

About Cecil Cobb

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