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Value the work of AFSCME library workers

Photo credit: Getty
By Jane Billinger ·

On this National Library Workers Day, AFSCME library workers deserve to be recognized for the value they bring to our diverse communities and the vital services they provide anyone who asks for help.

This day honors all of the hard work library workers put into creating vital community spaces. Over the last year, the need for a safe and healthy community space has been magnified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many library systems across the country quickly saw their buildings’ deficiencies highlighted due to public health requirements.

On average, America’s library buildings are more than 40 years old and need large scale improvement and modernization. Libraries have struggled to maintain an accessible environment in these aging buildings while meeting the needs of social distancing. Library workers often experience little to no support in enforcing mask mandates, gathering restrictions and other public health guidelines. While libraries are more than just the buildings, an unsafe building makes it harder for library workers to thrive in their workplaces.

AFSCME supports the Build America’s Libraries Act introduced by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan (S. 127 and H.R. 1581). The proposal is particularly important to library workers and patrons as it would provide $5 billion over three years to upgrade our nation’s library infrastructure. Investing in libraries not only benefits the institution but its community as well. Additionally, the return on investment for public libraries is $4-$5 for every dollar spent in many parts of the country.

Watch videos by Levin and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois in support of National Library Workers Day and AFSCME library workers.

The funds available through the Build America’s Libraries Act would be a substantial step forward in ensuring that the buildings that so many Americans hold near and dear to their hearts are supporting the working lives of AFSCME library employees.

AFSCME believes the bill’s funds could improve libraries in several ways.

In Connecticut, AFSCME Local 1716 (Council 4) members at the Hartford Public Library could see two of their recently closed branches reopen, substantially improving accessibility to the city’s resources.

In Pennsylvania, AFSCME members have raised concerns about asbestos in several branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia and this bill could provide increased funding for asbestos abatement, which would substantially improve the health prospects of many library workers who are part of District Council 47.

AFSCME library workers in Minnesota could have their institutions receive funding for improved alarm systems and protected spaces which would help resolve issues of workplace violence and help them feel supported and protected in their buildings.

Library workers across the country are coming together to build power, advocate for safer working conditions and demand a voice on the job. Cultural Workers United (CWU)/AFSCME represents more than 25,000 library workers and is the largest union of cultural workers in the country. Learn more about how to join this movement.

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