Since you’re here reading this, it’s a safe bet you love books. But libraries are so much more than books. Below, discover three surprising ways libraries like your Bozeman Public Library benefit society.
By joining our Stay Home & Read a Book Ball, you’re supporting the programs and services that bring these benefits to your community. On Sunday, October 3, join others who recognize the immense value of public libraries by staying home, reading a book, and donating what you would have spent on a fancy night out to your Bozeman Public Library.
More people live alone today than at any point in history, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated isolation and loneliness. In a Harvard study last October, 36% of respondents reported feeling alone frequently or all the time. And while seniors are often considered most at risk of isolation, young people have also been hit hard: 61% of respondents aged 18-25 reported high levels of loneliness. The problems of isolation extend far beyond mental health. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that social isolation can be as dangerous as other public health issues such as smoking or obesity.
Bozeman Public Library programs, like our outdoor yoga classes, bring adults across our community together, while Books & Babies gives parents a break from the isolation that caring for an infant can bring. And the Library is one of the few places that anyone can visit just to be around other people, without having to spend any money.
Libraries may reduce crime in several ways. By providing internet and job search resources, as well as opportunities to develop in-demand skills, libraries help people escape financial peril that may make them more likely to commit a crime. Libraries also offer safe spaces, not just for those who might be potential victims, but also for those who would otherwise be in environments that encourage criminality. In addition, a bustling neighborhood with people coming in and out of a library makes it more difficult to commit a crime without getting caught.
In a 2015 paper, economist Andrew Porter found that increasing public library hours reduces aggravated assault and homicide, as well as car burglaries.
The Bozeman Library offers a wide array of programs that help keep our community safe. A teen-specific space and teen programs give adolescents a safe and engaging environment. Loaner laptops and WI-FI hotspots, as well as free in-Library internet, help people apply for jobs, earn degrees, and develop new job skills. The Open Door, a social services hub, provides support for health issues, family needs, domestic violence, and more. And the beautiful green spaces surrounding the Library? Studies show that greenery reduces aggression and mental fatigue.
Feel like our nation has never been so divided on so many different issues? You’re not imagining it. When cities across America emerged as factory towns, workers from diverse backgrounds would congregate at taverns, union halls, or athletic fields, exposing them to different cultures and viewpoints. “The United States was segregated and unequal,” explains Eric Klinenberg in the book Palaces for the People, “but the social infrastructure supported shared experiences and forms of group mixing that are uncommon today.”
Today, as social inequality and class segregation have increased, Americans are increasingly polarized. In a 2016 poll, for example, 40% of people from both political parties said the opposing party’s political ideas threaten the nation’s wellbeing. Libraries are one of the few public spaces shared by people of all backgrounds and experiences. A homeless person is as welcome at the Library as the richest homeowner, and cultural events and other programs encourage learning about and engaging with all our neighbors.
Since 2018, the Bozeman Public Library has offered the civil discourse series SymBozium, designed specifically to get neighbors talking productively about charged issues. On topics ranging from fake news to affordable housing to pandemic health, the series invites speakers from different perspectives to lead principled, fruitful, and respectful conversations. Visit the SymBozium archive to learn more.
Read more about the value of libraries and other social infrastructure, including many of the points made in this blog post, in Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life.