Wednesday, 1 September 2010

In praise of libraries

'Girl Reading': painting by Franz Eybl, 1850 (from Wikimedia Commons)According to a recent UK report, up to 60% of people in Britain did not visit their public library in the last year. There is talk of locating libraries in supermarkets and of closing branches.

I hope this doesn't happen. I'm a huge fan of libraries and always have been. I would go to my local library with my parents and at that time the West Riding Library system was world-famous for its efficiency and class. True, the librarian tended to hover round me suspiciously, but the FREE BOOKS were wonderful.

That's the thing. Libraries are free. Which is amazing. Anyone can use a library. Anyone can join a library and take out books, videos, audio-books, and more, FOR FREE.

Why are people not using this? I don't understand it.

Libraries are also amazingly child-friendly these days. There are regular events aimed at children - contests and author days and more. The books are bright and inter-active.

Adults are well served, too. There are QUICK READS for those who fancy a swift, engaging story. There are novels shelved by genre, just as in bookshops. There are books in large print and in audio. In larger libraries there are events where local authors will chat about their work, or reading groups. (I must admit I take issue with reading groups because they never choose category romance or category westerns or war and I wonder why not.)

Libraries help people. A librarian will help you if you ask, or will know someone who will be able to help you. If you want to learn about astro-physics or rose pruning, the library will have books and other information on these subjects.

Libraries can come out to people, too - through mobiles and home-loans.

For a writer, a library can provide a place to meet - I know of several local writing groups who meet in their local libraries. The library can stock your books and you will receive Public Lending Right money each time one of your books is issued. You can set up an author chat in your library.

And it's all FREE.

My local library have always bought my books. I'm looking forward to libraries becoming fully 'wired' and able to issue ebooks, too, which will bring these great places fully into the 21st century.

My perfect library would look like this (and some already do):

1. A large children's section, full of books, games, toys and more books.

2. Long opening hours, especially during evenings and weekends.

3. Plenty of computers so everyone can browse the latest ebooks.

4. Stacks of books of all kinds and genres.

5. Tea and coffee available, so the library is partly a coffee house.

What would your perfect library be like?

Lindsay

8 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Libraries are wonderful places/spaces. The tea and coffee idea is a good one and maybe a snack's internet area. Actually, if libraries became a meeting place for the local community, a real place where ideas could be exchanged on a regular basis that could benefit the community as a whole.

I've always found librarians to be very helpful, especially in college and university libraries. And, I absolutely love most of the libraries I've been in. There were a couple in a major city that seemed to be a bit snooty. But, that was a long time ago.

These days in the states there are several dynamics working against traditional libraries. From what I've observed.

Celia Yeary said...

LINDSAY--just the kind of library I like. We have a big sprawling library, and it's always busy. It is not a quiet library. If you must have quiet to read your magazine or book, you may go into one of the soundproof rooms. This reminds me I need to sign up--if there are any spaces left. Very lovely article about your library. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LINDSAY--just the kind of library I like. We have a big sprawling library, and it's always busy. It is not a quiet library. If you must have quiet to read your magazine or book, you may go into one of the soundproof rooms. This reminds me I need to sign up--if there are any spaces left. Very lovely article about your library. Celia

Bekki Lynn said...

Our new library is almost like that, Lindsay. It lacks the long open hours.

They have a self-serve coffee counter, a computer center with internet access, movie rental. And books galore.

I love the library. It was my home away from home while I was growing up here. I miss that old building and its smell. When they moved into a much larger, single floor building, they didn't take the smell with the books. No fair.

The old building is now an over priced used book store. I go in just to bask in the smell that it will forever hold. I wish I could bottle it.

Linda Banche said...

I love libraries. I went to my local library when I was a kid and I kept going back. The library was on the other side of town, and I always walked there, carrying my books back and forth. I remember one time when I took out 8 hard covers and walked the 2 miles home. Not a hardship when you love books.

StephB said...

Lindsay, I love libraries. I remember as a young girl going to the Manchester Library all the time for books. Even as a teenager. However, it's been hard for me to go now - especially with my busy schedule. I took my son to the local library about two years ago for his Tiger project. I hate to admit that because that's the only time I've been recently. I need to find more time to go. Libraries are important - especially if you love books.

Smiles
Steph

Pat C. said...

I can't say enough good things about the library. Since I became unemployed it's been my second home. You can't beat the free Internet and the air conditioning. All my books have been typed up there on their system. I've also saved a ton on movie rentals because they've got a huge DVD collection and it's all for free. In fact, I'm typing this right now on my laptop in the lobby. I've started donating a portion of my royalties to them, both for the tax deduction but especially for the payback. I'm not sure I'd have a career right now if it wasn't for the Lancaster County library system. I'll have to see about moving in.

LK Hunsaker said...

Lindsay, I don't understand not using the library, either. Ours is very newly remodeled and much bigger, which is something in this little town and an era where libraries are losing funding. I agree with your idea of the perfect library, and we will soon have a coffee/tea bar added, as well!