This morning on the radio, there was discussion about a local council wanting to reduce opening hours in some of their libraries. I picked up the phone and added in my two cents to the discussion.
Public libraries are incredibly important to the community, even if many people don’t put value on them.
They are one of the few places you can go where you aren’t expected to pay any money. You can browse the shelves, join in an activity, or just hang out. All for free! Given that there’s a cost of living crisis, these spaces are invaluable.
As well as hanging out, visitors to the library also have access to books in all formats. Hardcover, paperback, ebooks, audiobooks, as well as DVDs, newspapers, and magazines. If the library doesn’t have a book on their shelves, they can request it for you from other libraries. This means that if there’s a book you really want to read, but don’t have the money to buy it, you can borrow it from the library. The added bonus is that the author still gets paid!
One of the best ways to improve literacy is to read books that you love. When I say books, I include newspapers and magazines. There was a report on the radio just before the discussion about libraries that said literacy levels weren’t where they ‘should’ be. This should mean that more resources should be put into libraries, not less.
Librarians are also amazing people who can help you find your next favourite read. They can either recommend something for you, or find books and resources on the most obscure topics. This is not limited to books. As libraries also have magazines, they may have a magazine subscription to something on your favourite topic that you have never heard of before. This is something that can’t be replaced by a web form or call centre staff.
Librarians are also incredibly helpful for those who struggle with computers. They regularly put on workshops to explain things, and can help people navigate the ups and downs of computer basics. You can also bring your own device and use the wi-fi.
As I said at the start, libraries are community hubs. If you check out the events calendar on just about every library, you will see activities from story time for toddlers, to school holiday activities for students, to study skills sessions for teens, to author talks, to social visits for retirees, and everything in between. These provide valuable opportunities for the community to connect, and you can learn a new skill.
As a author, it was the local library that kickstarted my workshops! They got me in for an author visit, encouraged my first foray into publishing with an anthology, and they stock my books for others to borrow. This is not to mention the number of times I asked the librarians to find resources on weird and wonderful topics for my stories.
Public libraries are vitally important for the community. There are so many benefits, both individually and for groups. Just because the benefits can’t be measured on a balance sheet doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They should be accessible to all with opening hours on weekends and some evenings so that everyone can access their resources.
Do you visit your local library?