Libraries and the American Dream

Libraries can help you achieve it.

Merriam-Webster defines the American dream as “a happy way of living that many Americans think of as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S., especially by working hard and becoming successful.” For decades, Americans viewed this as living in a beautiful home with a white picket fence, being married with two children, having a steady job, and owning a nice car. However, that dream has evolved. And it doesn’t look the same for everyone, which is perfect!

We can choose our happy way of living. Maybe it’s living in a tiny apartment in a bustling city, staying single or child-free, freelancing, or exploring the country in an RV. Libraries can help you achieve it. Let’s look at how libraries help people achieve their life goals.

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Further Your Education

Education or training for the career you want can help you meet your goals. For some, that will mean getting accepted into universities or trade schools. Some may be entering the workforce for the first time or in a new field, which can require specialized testing. Whatever your career goals, your library has the tools and resources to help you achieve them.

For those who have their sights set on college, many libraries, such as the Greenburgh Public Library in New York, offer resources to help their young patrons prepare for standardized tests and the SATs.

Suppose you or your child are still unsure about what college to choose, career to pursue, or how to pay for college. In that case, libraries like the Olathe Public Library in Kansas have online resources to help. You can even schedule an appointment to get assistance with the college application process.

A traditional four-year school is not the best fit for everyone. Even if you choose a different path, you may still be required to pass an exam to enter your field of choice. At the San Francisco Public Library, you can browse a collection of civil service, license, and exam preparation guides, including those for electricians, dental assistants, nursing assistants, postal workers, firefighters, and paramedics.

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Build a Business

One of the core values of the American dream is the opportunity to pursue a living. The possibilities are extensive with remote work, freelancing, and small business growth. Public libraries are helping support entrepreneurs with a variety of business-building resources.

Libraries like the Jersey City Free Public Library have curated a list of resources to support small business owners. Illinois’ Oak Park Public Library has a dedicated business and government librarian. They help new business owners create a business plan, get a license, and find relevant professional development opportunities.

The Longwood Public Library in New York offers accessible virtual business mentoring through SCORE on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Patrons can schedule a session via Zoom or telephone to access support and guidance for their business.

The Montpelier Small Business Network holds monthly events at the Montpelier Branch Library, part of the Pamunkey Regional Library in Virginia. Participants are given helpful information for entrepreneurs and business owners from different guest speakers each month. They have the opportunity to network with one another and promote their services.

Libraries can also provide a free space to hold business meetings and workshops. The Brooklyn Public Library has plenty of meeting rooms and booths accommodating two to eight people. For small business owners and entrepreneurs interested in holding workshops requiring a larger space, libraries like the Westborough Public Library in Massachusetts allow you to reserve a meeting room for up to 40 participants.

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Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is different from wealth. While becoming rich is a traditional version of the American dream, it is not the goal for everyone. Financial health means living a comfortable life, paying your bills, and still having enough money left over to cover unexpected expenses and prepare for your future. Learning how to manage your money and make it work for you is one of the most important ways to support your financial wellness.

The Denver Public Library provides personal finance resources and workshops to help patrons build their financial literacy. And learn how to use credit wisely, apply for a mortgage, get insurance, buy a car, and prevent or manage debt.

For those interested in learning how to invest for their future, the New York Public Library holds a nine-part investment series. Investing A to Z hosts investment professionals who teach participants what they look for in different investments, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

Many libraries, like the Seattle Public Library, offer access to the Morningstar Investment Research Center, among other investment and business databases. All you need is your library card number to log in and take advantage of their investment portfolio management tools.