Madison, GA

4 Ways to Support the Morgan County Library

Crystal Jackson

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As a self-professed bibliophile, I remember my first library card. I don’t remember how it looked, but I remember the power of holding it and knowing that I could check out any book or movie on the shelves. I was already aware that books weren’t just books. They were whole worlds to escape into, an instant pass to being somewhere else.

Libraries closing amid the pandemic just didn’t quite make my radar for some time. While I love the Morgan County Public Library, the truth is that I wasn't frequenting it as much as I once did. I’d been stopping at Little Free Libraries and purchasing books online or in stores. Streaming services have eclipsed much of my movie borrowing, and while we love to attend family-friendly events, our patronage of the library slowed in recent years.

But I remember hard times when the library was where I went for Internet access, employment resources, movie rentals, and to satisfy my voracious appetite for other worlds. It had been a lifeline, and I realized during those early COVID closures that I had been neglecting it. But as I was writing about personal finance in a COVID economy, it occurred to me that a few of my life hacks didn’t quite mesh with a global pandemic.

In normal times, libraries offered a variety of resources for those on a budget. Free books to borrow and movies to rent. Free family programming — particularly in the summer. Internet access and affordable printing. Employment resources. Even a well air-conditioned place to curl up with a book and enjoy the quiet — or for the homeless, a place to get out of the weather and loiter in a safe place.

But libraries, like everywhere else, closed up shop for the pandemic. While some may be slowly opening, including our own Morgan County Library, during a time of great financial hardship, one of the best resources was closed to us. Individuals couldn’t just give up the purchase of books and streaming services in favor of free books and movies at the local library. For a while, the people who rely most on its services were without it.

In Madison, the local school provided jump drives to students without Internet access, and the city informed residents of where free Wi-Fi still existed — in parking lots of libraries, parks, and businesses. The library’s closure was felt, and as most of us were busy trimming our budgets to adjust for hardship, we couldn’t just rely on its free offerings to supplement our entertainment.

Libraries are also experiencing financial hardship. Fees they normally collect won’t be coming in, funding could be cut, and they will likely suffer as much as the rest of us while dealing with closures amidst the pandemic. An article in Wired explains the problem:

“During economic downturns, library patronage surges, as millions of more people are drawn by free and low-cost resources, job-seeking programs chief among them. According to a 2010 report by the ALA, libraries in 24 states had their funding slashed during the recession of the late 2000s. Combine a surplus of increasingly desperate people with underfunded library staff and things can get ugly.”

Libraries are essential to our communities. As they begin to open back up, we can look for ways to support them.

Here are 4 ways to support our local Morgan County Library:

#1 Be a Friend of the Library

Most libraries have a Friends of the Library group we can join for a fee to add our support. For Madison, we have the Friends of the Morgan County Library--an organization you can join to help support the library. Funds raised by this 501(c)3 non-profit organization directly support the library.

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Morgan County Library Operating Hourshttps://www.facebook.com/morgancountylibrary1131/photos/761173334504433

#2 Volunteer

Where we can’t volunteer money, we can volunteer time — and vice versa. Our libraries need us. Ask them about volunteer opportunities. If we don't have the time to volunteer, the library could likely use monetary donations to support its programs.

#3 Vote

Where we can’t volunteer either, we can make sure that we vote for representatives who don’t put library funding on the chopping block. It's important to pay attention to legislation that directly impacts our communities--particularly funding for libraries and the arts. Even if we can't afford to volunteer time or money, we can show up to vote for library-friendly legistlation.

#4 Support Programs and Events

We can show up to library book sales and find other ways to champion their cause. If we love our library and the wonderful events it hosts and the services it provides, we need to show up for it now more than ever. By borrowing books and movies, utilizing its services, and championing its programs. While it's there for us during financial hardship, it's also there for us when we simply want a place to feel the beating heart of our community.

Because the heart of our communities will always be libraries. After we move into a post-COVID world, they will need our support and patronage now more than ever. They need us — and we may very well need them. Together, we can make our communities stronger, smarter, and safer as we navigate whatever challenges lie ahead.

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Upcoming In-Person Chair Yoga ClassImage Courtesy of Morgan County Library

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2021 Summer Reading Program at Morgan County LibraryImage Courtesy of Morgan County Library

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA
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