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Worth & Soul of Words
A newsletter by Ken Baker,
author for young readers
February 2024

How supporting libraries benefits our children and communities

Boy reading statue in front of library.

Did you know?

Libraries and librarians do more than you may think

Libraries' economic impact

Libraries and librarians don't get the respect they deserve. That often manifests itself in budget cuts, low pay, and neglect. However, a recent study by the state of Texas revealed that every dollar invested in Texas public libraries returned a $4.64 economic benefit.1 A California report had similar findings with yields between $3 and $6 for every $1 invested.2 So, what makes libraries so valuable? A large part is the increased literacy levels they create through resources, programs, services, activities, technology as well as job-seeking training.3

Libraries and librarians improve literacy rates

Supporting school libraries is just as critical. As an investment in our children's future, they significantly improve literacy rates and provide access to resources that some children don't have at home.4 School librarians fuel a desire to read and act as mentors for children that need more positive role models.5 Unfortunately, an American Library Association 2019 report indicated that 91% of U.S schools have school libraries, but only 61% of them have full‐time librarians. Even more concerning, 20% of U.S. schools have no librarians.6

How to support libraries and librarians

So, what magic needs to happen to make sure we don't lose this valuable investment? First, advocate for your libraries and librarians at every level to those in positions of power; school administrators, PTAs, city councils, mayors, and local, state, and national legislators. Support or engage with pro-library organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA), American Association of School Libraries (AASL), International Association of School Librarianship, International Literacy Association, and others.

Perhaps, most important, visit your local library often and take advantage of the resources they offer you and your children. A library with high traffic, use, and engagement often provides statistical proof of its value to those in position of power.

WIFYR Book Club hosted by Aubrey Allie


Shout out! - Library Board President on supporting libraries

As a former Library Board President in Texas, Aubrey Allie is an expert on supporting libraries, as well as a writer of children's books. She also hosts the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) Book Club, where I met her last month when I presented at the Book Club. As a result, I had the opportunity to ask her questions about the importance of libraries, its impact on her writing, and how to support libraries. Below I've provided a few snippets from that interview.

Me: What is your favorite thing about volunteering for the library board?
Aubrey: My favorite part is advocating for the library and collaborating with the librarians, particularly the children's librarian. I'm a children's writer, after all, and it began with my love of reading and writing combined with my advocacy for children's education. Reading is important for kids as it enhances language and communication skills, stimulates cognitive development, and promotes emotional and social growth. It lays the foundation for lifelong learning, broadens their horizons, and equips them with essential skills for academic and personal success.

Me: What do you wish people knew about libraries or librarians?
Aubrey: Libraries offer much more than just physical book lending. They function as community centers, providing a wide range of resources and opportunities for everyone. If their local library lacks certain resources, I urge them to get involved in its growth.

Me: How can parents, teachers, children, and others take better advantage of libraries?
Aubrey: Explore and utilize all the resources they offer. Host activities and events for children, form groups that meet at the library, and involve homeschoolers or students who can volunteer for community service hours are excellent ways to engage with the library.

Me: What other ways can people support libraries:
Aubrey: Obtain a library card and actively borrow physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. Place holds on books that are not yet available and request specific titles. These can all contribute to the growth and development of libraries. Furthermore, volunteering is crucial, as library workers heavily rely on dedicated individuals to assist them.

Me: Any final words?
Aubrey: I deeply value the role of libraries. Libraries are more vital than ever for our communities and must evolve alongside them. Libraries deserve recognition for their invaluable contributions.

To learn more about Aubrey, visit www.aubreyallie.com

Read hte full interview with Aubrey Allie at www.kenbakerbooks.com/librarian_aubreyallie.html

Book business and life - Authors rely on libraries and librarians

Talking of libraries, some people don't realize the impact that libraries and librarians have on author's careers. Of course, libraries stock their shelves with authors' books that patrons get to loan. But the success of a book often depends on how many libraries, if any, actually buy your book and how many copies they buy.

For example, if every one of the more than 117K+ libraries in the U.S.7 bought one of my books, that would be a great success. All the better if they bought 2 or 3 copies. But that extent of library book buying rarely happens.

Additionally, what libraries buy, impacts what regular people buy, since librarians are some of the greatest book influencers. Librarian book recommendations often turn into more book purchases. Some of the most influential librarians are the ones that do national book reviews. A great book review helps sell more books. Bad ones obviously hurt sales. And I'm thankful for the many positive reviews my books have received from librarians.
Family in library

Heart image by Ken Baker

What I love - Great library experiences

I love libraries and librarians that create an environment and activities that make my grandchildren want to go there to have fun, learn, hear stories, read, and check out books (Look close to see if you can see one of my books on display).
I love that before I could read, my Mom frequently took me to the Sunnyvale Public Library in California, where almost every time I'd check out a Curious George book.

I love my local Utah County libraries where I can visit to do research or check out books, or check out online books from home or wherever. I love the community support for those libraries that has enabled them to offer more services than city budgets would have allowed. I love that my children's schools had libraries and librarians that engaged them and taught them the value of reading and encouraged a love for books.

P.S. - Support your local libraries.

And please forward or share this newsletter to any librarians you know. Happy reading!

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Thank you

Thank You image by Ken Baker

Special thanks to Aubrey Allie for her willingness to contribute to this month's newsletter!

1. "Texas Public Libraries: Economic Benefits and Return on Investment," Texas State Library and Archives Commission, January 2017, www.tsl.texas.gov/roi
2. "The Value of California’s Public Libraries," California State Library, August 2021, www.library.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Value-of-Libraries.pdf
3. Ibid.
4. "The Power of School Libraries: Why Every Student Deserves Access," Oakland Literacy Coalition, February 2023, https://oaklandliteracycoalition.org/the-power-of-school-libraries-why-every-student-deserves-access/
5. Benjamin Barbour, "3 Key Roles of School Librarians," edutopia, May 2022, www.edutopia.org/article/3-key-roles-school-librarians/
6. "The Essential Leadership of School Librarians," International Literacy Association, 2022, www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/the-essential-leadership-of-school-librarians.pdf
7. "ALA Library Fact Sheet 1," American Library Association, www.ala.org/ala/alalibrary/libraryfactsheet/alalibraryfactsheet1.htm

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Cow Can't Sleep
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Copyright 2001-2023 by Ken Baker

How to Care for your T-Rex pictures by Dave Coverly
Old MacDonald had a Dragon pictures by Christopher Santoro
Brave Little Monster pictures by Geoffrey Hayes
Cow Can't Sleep pictures by Steve Gray