“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
Yesterday I had to guiltily take back a library book for my daughter that was overdue by two months. I had taken back all our other books but this one had slipped through the cracks. Expecting a huge fine (which I rightly should have paid) I was really surprised – pleasantly so – that there was none because by daughter is, well, a child. Children don’t get fined if they don’t take their books back because, as the librarian explained, they want them to grow up with a love of reading and not worried about potential fines.
It just reminded me, again, of why I love my local library – all libraries in fact, having been a huge lender all my life. So I thought I would share my love and list all the reasons I think libraries are great…
They are free for anyone who wants to use them for however long you want to use them. For someone like me, who tends to be quite cheap and watch my pennies, this is god-send. For people on limited incomes who can’t afford books but love to read or want to learn, they must be more so.
They offer variety, loaning out “real” books, ebooks and audio books so there is something to suit everyone’s reading style / preference and, if there is a book you must have, with the range of formats you should be able to get hold of a copy pretty easily and quickly. Then there is the range of subjects – fiction and non-fiction, history, arts, travel, culture, chick-lit, children’s books, young adult and on and on and on the list goes.
They are about more than books they are places where people can meet up, take part in hobbies (mine hosts knitting groups, history groups and a book club), where parents can take their children (mine has play and stay groups every day of the week), and where local community activities can be supported (again, mine hold open mike and comedy nights for local acts). Libraries are at the heart of communities.
They treat people equally because money is no object at a library (unless you are like me and forget to take them back so there are fines). You don’t have to pay for membership or be rich to access books. You just have to be able to get there and get through the door or, as is the case nowadays, get online to access their catalogue.
Going back to the point of their being free, it means anyone can access knowledge, and the fact that they are more than books, including social inclusion for the lonely and internet access for those who don’t have it (vital in today’s society). They mean everyone can fully engage with the world without the barrier of money, age, gender or race.
They are accessible or at least most are, providing online access to those who can’t get to a physical building but still want to read books and using mobile libraries to get to hard to reach / rural communities. I still remember living miles out of town and the mobile library turning up once a month. I might be a book nerd but it really was a highlight and meant I could access books and open up whole new worlds I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
They don’t throw you out for just sitting and reading a book which you cannot do in a book store without risk of someone coming and asking if they can help you with anything or giving you knowing looks that say “you are planning on buying that and not just reading it aren’t you?”
Authors still get paid through something called public lending right, every time you lend a book, this is recorded and monies paid out (just something to think about when you are buying a second hand book you could otherwise have loaned and which doesn’t pay the author).
You can get cool library cards or at least you can at my library. It’s pink and black and makes me happy when I take it out to loan books.
They make searching for books more exciting because you never know what you are going to find. It isn’t always going to be new books, or best sellers or books that bookshops prominently display so you’ll buy them.
It’s guilt free because it hasn’t cost you anything. How many times have you ploughed through a book because you bought it and felt you had to or because it was a review copy and you were obliged? With library books, if you don’t like them, don’t finish them. There is nothing to lose (which means you can also take risk on books you might not otherwise pick up).
And that’s it, my reasons for using the library. There are more but these are the ones that popped into my head. What about you, do you use the library…and if you don’t, why not give it a go…you won’t be disappointed I’m sure.