The University of Maine’s Raymond H. Fogler Library has transformed itself into a central hub of campus, where students congregate to meet for group projects, seclude themselves on the third floor to focus, or curl up on comfy chairs to relax. Yet libraries serve as more than just a meeting place, and in honor of National Library Week, we should take time to stop and appreciate all that public libraries provide for students, citizens, and communities.

As its most basic and fundamental service, libraries provide information. With shelves upon shelves of texts to explore, libraries provide access to pertinent knowledge for students attempting to write research papers, family members seeking out their family history, travelers gaining knowledge for their next trip or just the average citizen looking for some entertainment. The right to free access to knowledge is a powerful, yet quiet and sometimes hidden human right, but one libraries specialize in.

Beyond books, libraries are now equipped with computers for writing, surfing the web and printing. There is no denying that access to the internet has worked its way into being a necessity of everyday life. The internet serves as a platform for information, communication, jobs, marketplaces and more. With free access for all, public libraries ensure that every person can access the internet for whatever they may need.

Libraries often also play key roles in hosting and developing after school or community centered programs. They can serve as an after school hub for children to play games, read or access the internet. They can host children’s reading programs that incite and encourage engaged reading habits and they can provide adult education classes for various topics, from computers to taxes to make sure adults stay up to date.

According to the American Library Association, there are over 100,000 libraries across the U.S. That is over 100,000 places working to provide access to information, literature, technology and community services. These places work to serve citizens of all backgrounds, ages, income levels, ethnicities, race or physical abilities.

As a daughter of a small town librarian, I have seen first hand the impacts a local library can provide through summer reading programs for children, extra rooms to serve as a place for club meetings, and a warm, friendly atmosphere for all to congregate. As a student, I have seen how the resources at Fogler Library benefit students. Specialized librarians, computer labs, printer services and resource guides and databases are just a few of the assets available to students.

In honor of National Library Week, take the time to consider the times where you have benefited from the use of your hometown, high school or college library and reflect on the privilege of universally accessible knowledge they provide.