When I recently announced joyously that I had finally been accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science program, I got a variety of responses. Mainly “woohoo!”s and things like that, but also the occasional question about why I chose this career, or even something as refreshingly candid as this comment from an online friend in a Kakao group chat:
There is a certain nostalgia associated with libraries. Many people (and this included me to an extent before I began working in a library 7 years ago) have an idea in their heads of what a library is. Perhaps they are even rather fond of this very concept of a library, and they romanticize it lovingly in their heads. Theirs is a quiet, austere place filled with rows and rows of books. Their library might resemble one they frequented as a child, or saw in a movie. In their memory, the library is a place that you turn to when you are in need of a book, or a quiet place to study. In their library, bespectacled, cardigan wearing women “shhh” you for turning the pages too loud.
This idea of a library endures, supported by some popular media and the notions of those who maybe haven’t visited their public library in recent memory.
However, this library is not my library.
Certainly, some of the above aspects are present in some parts of some libraries some of the time. But, the libraries of today offer so much more than that outdated model.
Libraries offer services in line with the times and are constantly updating to best serve their patrons in this age of rapidly changing technologies and emerging means of information sharing. In the libraries of today, you may access multiple services in a visit without so much as seeing a book.
People of all ages and all walks of life are welcome in the library, where they are treated with respect and dignity, and able to access information, technologies, entertainment and services that they might not be able to access otherwise. The library is a space where you aren’t expected to buy anything, there’s no catch.
I know I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, (check out this legendary twitter smackdown if you haven’t already: https://twitter.com/i/moments/922965302761025536?lang=en ) but this is a message that needs to be reinforced again and again, as clearly there is a need to defend libraries from the detrimental actions of those who don’t understand them.
I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to: Libraries are for everyone to access information, education, entertainment and services that enrich their lives and foster lifelong learning.
Here are just some of the kinds of things you might be able to do at your public library today at little or no cost:
- check out an ipad or ereader on loan
- use a free wifi connection
- get one on one homework or reading help
- access full-text, peer-reviewed articles for assignments and research
- borrow the latest video games, movies, magazines, and music (FOR FREEEEEE)
- utilize a community makerspace with tools and technology
- attend a resume building workshop so you can get that job!
- 3D print whatever your mind can fathom
- practice yoga, zumba, tai chi, meditation, etc.- namaSLAY!!!
- meet up for a weekly parenting or breastfeeding support group
- reserve a study or meeting room
- attend a movie night and enjoy popcorn and the big screen
- participate in a writers circle
- access resources for preparing for a Citizenship exam or other exam
- receive cuddles from a therapy animal program
- create crafts or learn how to paint a masterpiece step by step, maybe with some wine and cheese- like paint night, but cheaper!
- participate in a cosplay competition or learn how to create cosplay looks
- get help accessing genealogical records and researching your family ancestry
- peruse board games and card games to take home, or to play at the library (Cards Against Humanity anyone?)
- print and scan important documents
- share at a seed-swap or learn about beekeeping
- learn a new language in a conversation group
- download audiobooks, ebooks, videos, music, and more from home or on the go with your library card
- “borrow” a human through a Human Library project
- visit (or add to) a community art display
- get referrals to a variety of social services
- find help fact-checking that dubious looking article your aunt sent you on Facebook
- dress up with some razzle-dazzle for a seniors social dinner and dance
oh yeah, and you can also check out books!!!
My library is a vibrant, busy, exciting place, full of possibilities. My library is for everyone.
Truly, libraries are vital community hubs. I can’t imagine a world without libraries. It hurts to try imagining.
3 thoughts on “Why do libraries matter today?”
This is a very enlightening post. You articulate well the importance of libraries, which I think is more vital now more than ever since it feels like libraries are going obsolete, or technology is trying to make it obsolete. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing!
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Thanks so much! Yes, it is important to support libraries right now more than ever as council members and politicians who don’t understand libraries are using outdated ideas of what libraries and librarians do as a justification for funding cuts.
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I think many, many people don’t understand the importance of libraries in the age of technology, which substantiates the political intentions of wanting to close them. Libraries do so much for communities and I’m afraid people won’t realise that until it’s too late. I’ll admit that I wasn’t aware of how impactful libraries are until I became good friends with a librarian who’s very active in their cause for keeping them open and keeping that funding coming.
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