'Geek the Library' campaign raises awareness about plight of libraries

COVINGTON -- Being a geek isn't a bad thing, especially when you can use your geekiness to raise awareness about the importance of libraries.

The Newton County Library System is participating in "Geek the Library," a community-based public awareness campaign for public libraries and their funding agencies.

"Geek the Library" features local educational material that introduces "geek" as a verb.

The campaign encourages the public to talk about what they "geek." For example, at the Covington branch, there are monitors displaying photos of local library board members and community leaders telling what they geek. For Library Board of Trustees member Frank Turner, it's whittling; for Library Board Chairman Steve Whatley, it's plants. Patrons of the library are invited to participate by having their photos made and posted.

Assistant Library Director Courtney Lumpkin said the campaign prompts the public to ask questions, which then provides an opportunity to talk about the plight of libraries, "how important libraries are and how great our needs are at this particular point in time."

The campaign is sponsored by OCLC, a nonprofit library cooperative that has provided services to help libraries deliver more to their users for four decades. It is supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to a Geek the Library press release, as the economy recovers, millions of Americans are turning to libraries for educational opportunities, job-searching resources and entertainment, and the increased demand is taking a toll on libraries already experiencing flat or decreasing budgets. Many people may not know that libraries are at risk or that local funding for libraries is heavily influenced by community members. The goal of "Geek the Library" is to spark conversations about the library that will inspire more people to take personal responsibility for keeping local public libraries vital in their communities.

"When you're publicly funded, you have to be on people's radar. You have to be considered a priority within your community," Lumpkin said. "If people aren't thinking about our library and our needs or considering us important, we're going to be at the bottom of the list when it comes time to talk about where funding is going to go, from the local government to the federal government. At each level, we want to make sure that libraries are a priority when it comes to budget issues."

The campaign runs through September.

For more information, visit www.geekthelibrary.org.