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There are more than 117,000 libraries in the United States, according to the American Library Association. Libraries are important centers of information, giving people free access to books, periodicals, and digital materials. Libraries are also important community centers, where people can gather, exchange ideas, hear lectures, and read.

Often, however, libraries may find themselves strapped for resources. That’s where volunteers can help. From avid readers to people who value the importance of the services libraries provide, there are many different ways to help your local library. Here are a few.

Lend a hand. Libraries need volunteers to help them return books to shelves, run events and programs, and help visitors find the information they need. If you have some spare time, contact your local library, and find out if they need someone to help out every once in a while. This may also be a good opportunity for students who need to fulfill volunteer hour requirements.

Join—or start—a book club. Some libraries host book clubs, where members read the same book every month and gather to discuss it. If you like to read, this can be a good way to support the library’s efforts. And if there is not currently a book club at your library, consider working with your librarian to start one.

Donate books. Ready to part with some of the books gathering dust on your shelves? Libraries may want them for their collections or may collect donations for book sale fundraisers.

Join a committee. Different types of libraries are governed by different entities. Some may have committees that help oversee how the library is run. These are often volunteer committees. Serving on a library committee could be a good way to have a say in the types of materials your library offers.

Organize events. Libraries often host readings, seminars, or other events of interest to the local community. These both fulfill the library’s mission and also draw in people who may not otherwise know about the services the local library has to offer. If you know someone interesting—such as an author or local expert—contact the library about organizing an event for them.

Thank a librarian. Being a librarian can be a demanding job. Why not thank your local librarians for all they do with a simple note or card? If you really want to show your appreciation, deliver it with a few treats or some flowers, too.

Be an advocate. As libraries face threats to their funding, you can be an ally by writing to local, state, and federal governing bodies to encourage preservation of funding. Spread the word about the important services libraries provide and encourage friends and family members to become library members.

Supporting your local library also supports your community in an important way. If you’re looking for more ways to volunteer and give back, visit