A Little Library Love

Photo by Ben GallagherLibraries seem to be having a bit of a tough time of it these days. With eReaders all the rage, and Google the Oracle of All, and Wikipedia the combined knowledge of the masses, there’s a lot of concern that Libraries are going to go the way of the Dinosaurs. Before you know it, we’ll be crashing giant, flaming meteorites into them and burying them under enough rock and ash that they’ll remain mostly intact for future generations to find and wonder at.

Last week, Ben Trube wrote a Vigorous Defense of Libraries and posed the question: How do you feel about libraries?

I tried to answer. I really did. But my answer was longer than his original post. (This happens more often than you’d imagine.) So I decided I should post my answer here, in my own personal space, rather than taking up all of his.

The short answer: I love my local library.


The long answer: I go to the library at least once every couple of weeks. Sometimes more. So, why do I love it?

1) Access to lots and lots (and lots) of books for free.

I realise this should go without saying, but it’s really the most important thing. I simply don’t have the money to buy every book I’d like to read.  So far this year I’ve read 42 books, all of which have been borrowed either from friends or from the library. If I’d purchased them all, that would have cost me at least $800.

Then there’s the books my five-year-old reads. He can easily go through 10 books every week. Without access to a library, perhaps he wouldn’t have the great love for books that he has.

2) Access to a wider range of books than you’d expect.

All the libraries in my district work together to ensure library patrons have access to a large quantity of books. Rather than all of them trying to stock every book (which would be impossible considering the cost-cutting going on), they co-ordinate their ordering process. Then they offer a service where you can request a book from another library, and it is transferred to your library within 48 hours for 60 cents.

Plus, you can use this service online from home — I just place my order and head to the library a couple of days later to pick up my books. How convenient is that?

3) Free computer use (for word processing) and cheap internet access.

Yes, I have a computer at home. Yes, that’s more convenient. But, you know what? I’ve done any amount of writing in the library when I’ve needed a different environment to get my brain firing. If I can escape to the library for a couple of hours, I have distraction-free writing time without internet access or a fridge in the next room.

4) School holiday programs.

My local library teaches everything from book-binding to poetry to writing to “make your own comic” in the school holidays. Plus they have a variety of shows and events — X-Box competitions, magic shows, giant board game days. It’s free, it’s fun, and it gives the kids a reason to want to go to the library. (Other than the obvious reason that it’s a room full of books!)

5) The librarians.

These are people who love books, who are paid to hang out in buildings full of books, and answer the same question over and over and over and over, day after day, with a friendly smile. Plus, they know stuff.

And not just stuff like: What’s the name of that book that I read ten years ago with a red cover and a clock on the front where the main character’s name is Jane?

Librarians can recommend books similar to those you’ve read before, tell you where to get information on a variety of topics, show you how to use the photocopier, teach you how to use the online book catalogue, and direct you to the restrooms, all while singing songs about teddy bears to a group of enthralled children and saving a cat from a burning building.

They’re just that good.

When was the last time you went to the library? Do you love your local library as much as I love mine?


Filed under Opinion, Reading

15 responses to “A Little Library Love

  1. Oh Jo I love love love my library. I currently have 4 books. I go at least every other week.

  2. My favorite librarian was Mrs. Mann. I was ten and she was sort of like a personal dope peddler. I’d bring back my stack of seven or ten books that were due and she’d say things like, “Oh you liked that one? Then maybe you’ll like this one. It’s a little stronger, a little better. Go ahead just try it.” She was also my accomplice when I wanted to check out books from the adult section. Yeah, libraries are very good things.

  3. Since I work as a school librarian and was nearly laid off this year, this was a nice pick me up. One of the things I heard was “Why do we need librarians when we have the Internet?” *Sigh* Thanks for loving libraries.

    • You’re welcome.

      Also — how in the world do you find the time to be a school librarian between your hectic 50 Shades schedule???

    • My mother is an art historian (and a former librarian) and she frequently complains about how inadequate Google is compared to a competent research librarian.

      One time (pre-Google) I was writing about the Harold Pinter play Betrayal and I blanked on one of the three actors who had been in the Broadway version (I was comparing it to the movie). I called the Library of the Performing Arts, and the person who answered the phone knew the answer, and then we talked about the film vs. stage comparison a little.

      • Look, I love Google. But there’s no way that it stacks up in comparison to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about — or who knows how to research from real books (gasp!) or primary sources (double gasp!).

  4. I am sad to admit that for the last many years the only time I’ve gone to the local library has been to vote. I read my way through several libraries over the years, but these days I buy way too many books and do most of my research on line. When I was doing historical research on primary sources, I spent a lot of time in the local university library and the research library in Galveston. Sigh. Now I don’t have time to read the books piled up in my bedroom.

    Three cheers for Big Brother. He will be a reader for life.

    • If I could afford to buy all the books I want to read, I would doubtless spend less time at the library as well. (At least in regards to books for myself.) But there’s nothing quite like the look of awe and amazement on Big Brother’s face when he walks into the library. You just can’t buy that.

  5. Reblogged this on Platte Public Library and commented:
    Reasons to love the library…as if you needed any of course!

  6. Thanks BTW for the kind mention (sorry it took me a little while to stop by 🙂 ). Been loving your stories of big and little brother.

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