Main Street News

The Importance of Library Card Sign-up Month and How to Celebrate

By Published On: September 5th, 2023

September is Library Card Sign-up Month, and libraries in the region are doing their part to celebrate, both during this month and year-round. And it’s significant, now more than ever, to recognize just how many resources a library card can give members access to, free of cost! As Rhiannon Leo-Jameson, director of NorthEast Millerton Library, says, “It is becoming more like ‘what don’t libraries have to offer.’”

In addition to providing traditional, physical books that can be checked out, local libraries can present a whole variety of other media products and opportunities, depending on the location. Available in both physical and digital forms, one can find magazines, comics, music, audiobooks, eBooks, DVDs, and movies and television available for free streaming. The NorthEast Millerton Library also offers a Library of Things, which, as Rhiannon describes, is “a collection of not so commonly held items like snowshoes, fishing rods, hotspots, laptops, seeds and spices.” She also clarifies that anyone, even those without a card, can take part in their programs.

As Rhiannon explains, the merits of a library card membership are truly extensive; using library resources can save both money and space in one’s household, while also giving people the chance to get involved in their community, learn, and meet new people amidst new experiences.

According to Gretchen Hachmeister, executive director of the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon in Sharon, CT, appreciating your local library and accessing all that it can provide has broader implications for one’s role in their town and country, too. “A library card is also your membership card to one of the most important civic institutions in our country. It is often the first way children participate in civic life. With a library card, you belong to an organization that upholds free speech and access to information for all,” she emphasizes.

To encourage library card sign-ups, Rhiannon shares that each year, becoming a member at the NorthEast Millerton Library enters you into a raffle to win a prize, and this year, an adult and child—and the person who refers them to the library—will win a Candy-O’s gift card! For more information about this, as well as all of this library’s resources and programs, you can visit their website.

The Hotchkiss Library of Sharon also promotes Library Card Sign-up Month and saw a particular rise in memberships last month after restoring and reopening their expanded location on the Sharon Green. “The excitement and enthusiasm of returning to our magnificent space has brought in new patrons and those whose cards had lapsed,” says Gretchen. To learn more about their materials and opportunities, click here.

Both libraries recognize the value of presenting their significant resources in the context of education. Gretchen notes that at the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon, class visits from Sharon Center School can effectively introduce children to the world of local libraries, while also serving as an outlet to inform parents about signing their children up for library membership. This library will also be collaborating with Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s new Library Media Specialist to help high schoolers register for library cards and get involved. “Back to school is a great time to draw attention to how libraries can assist families in building literacy and supporting education,” Gretchen explains.

Rhiannon underscores this idea, highlighting this importance for people of all ages: “September is the time when people return to school and focus more on intellectual activities as a school age child or a lifelong learner. Libraries help provide a way for individuals to continue their love [of] learning and support those that are on the path through school.”

To assist local libraries in this effort and ensure they have ample resources to give back to the community, it is key that these public institutions get the community support that they need. As Gretchen elucidates, many libraries in the region are nonprofit, providing a majority, if not all, of their resources for free; thus, they rely, in some part, on fundraising to keep their programs going, despite receiving some local municipality funds as well. Of course, donations of money and volunteer time to assist with library projects are greatly appreciated.

However, a major step that anyone can take is simply using their library! Whether it be through signing out media or attending programs and events, Rhiannon and Gretchen both stress that this participation in itself is a vital form of support.

Current patrons also have the power to share their love for local libraries with those who might not be taking full advantage of what these institutions have to offer, Rhiannon explains. “Libraries are one of the few places in the world that are just here to help, whether it be with a problem you’re having or if you are just looking for something to do.”

These concepts could not be more relevant in today’s world. Last year, I wrote an article about Banned Books Week, and in doing so, I learned of the many ways that access to books and information has been challenged or limited across the country. As Gretchen points out, just as a library membership is a form of civic engagement, supporting your local library is an act that upholds equal access to information and stands up against book banning. “The right to read is fundamental to a strong democracy. Libraries uphold that right,” she adds.

To learn more about Library Card Sign-up Month and to find resources to show your support, click here. Sign up with your local library today and start reaping the benefits of a library card!