Originally known as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, November 11 was designated as a holiday to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to honor the country’s military veterans. As of 2021, there are approximately 19 million U.S. veterans, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population.
Many libraries and museums have utilized IMLS funding to not only preserve the stories of veterans, but to find new ways to serve them on a daily basis.
For 10 years, the California State Library committed a portion of their Library Services and Technology Act funding to serving veterans through their Veterans Connect @ The Library program. Their goal was to educate veterans and their family members about their benefits and refer them to the agencies which can formally award earned benefits including pensions, compensation, education, employment, improved health, housing, and improved well-being.
Between 2020 and 2021, despite the COVID-related closure of libraries, and the loss of volunteers, 63 libraries across California reached 400 veterans. To accomplish this, the libraries set up "Grab and Go" bags and shared information on social media.
The state library has made all their project resources available online for other libraries to use and model programs on. This includes information about addressing the needs of women and minority veterans, videos about mental health, toolkits, and many other resources.
Another institution working with veterans is the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University. The Wex is expanding its free arts resilience programs to help individuals, families, and neighborhoods emerge from the pandemic with a sense of wellbeing and human connection. One of their sessions is Vets at the Wex, a partnership with the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center. All the resilience programs are serving the public and specific groups, such as military veterans and community members experiencing anxiety.
As libraries and museums are taking care of the veterans in their local communities, others are looking to the past.
The Air Zoo in Portage, MI is using Save America's Treasures funds to restore the condition of a WWII warplane, the Douglas Dauntless SBD-1 (1612), for museum exhibition and educational purposes. Utilized for training in WWII and later recovered from Lake Michigan, the historic warplane will undergo extensive conservation work. The Air Zoo’s commitment to preserving the last known SBD-1 Dauntless dive bomber is crucial to sharing the stories of America’s veterans with future generations.
This Veterans Day, as the country says, 'thank you', libraries and museums are continuing the vital outreach to assist veterans, and sharing the important stories of U.S. veterans, past and present.