April 7-13 was National Library Week in the United States. From what I understand, it’s an event put on by the American Library Association (ALA) to celebrate libraries, librarians and library staff and the incredible contributions they make to society. I enjoyed reading all the articles and tweets that popped up on my feeds.
As more and more governments are cutting funding to libraries and their supports, I’ve been thinking about how my library usage has changed over the years.
As a child, I loved the library. I read as many books as I could (still do), and at the library I could choose any books I wanted to take home to read. And in the summer, I participated in the summer reading program challenges at my library, winning the chance to choose a toy from the prize bucket for doing something I already spent most of my time doing.
In university, I used my campus library for research and occasionally for a quiet place to study or write.
And as an adult, I’ve used my library (and the most brilliant system ever invented – the library hold system) to try out new-to-me authors, a wider range of genres, and even read entire book series that would have cost me hundreds of dollars to buy. Instead, I read all of those books for free.
I read over 100 books last year and a huge percentage of them were library books. (I’m trying to keep better records this year so I can have accurate stats to discuss next year.) If I didn’t have my library, I wouldn’t be able to read nearly as many books. It would simply have been too expensive.
My library usage has changed even more this year. Last month, I was able to take an online course on editing for free through my library. (Hooray for professional development!) And this week, I’m starting a fiction writing course, specifically about writing romance novels. I’m so thankful for these learning opportunities that don’t cost me an arm and a leg. Along with all these benefits, the libraries in my city also provide wonderful destinations for date days with my husband or my friends to go see the new buildings and cool things they’ve been outfitted with – including a play place in one and a real helicopter in another!
My library, the Calgary Public Library, also provides so much more to so many in our city. They offer free workshops and training (lots online and lots in person) on all kinds of topics – from resume writing to financial literacy to gardening to technology, free computer use and printing, story times and play dates for the little ones, study rooms, exam prep, teen areas, and so much more. Here’s just a short list of the things that come FREE with a FREE LIBRARY CARD at my library.
How can you use your library? If it’s anything like mine you can use it for:
- books (print, ebooks, audiobooks)
- online courses
- computer use
- meeting rooms
- movie rentals
- newspapers and magazine
- music rentals and lessons
- kids’ day camps
- Virtual Reality technology
- 3D printing technology
- early learning centres for kiddos
- language courses
- and even more!
How do you access all that? By signing up for a library card. It’s that easy. If you have a library near you that you can access, you are blessed.
Libraries are about so much more than books.
If you haven’t figured out where I’m going yet, just read that line again. Libraries are about so much more than providing books to us booknerds. They are places of community, places to help everyone, especially the underprivileged, in our society. Libraries provide resources and spaces to help people grow and learn and be and make their futures into what they want.
Libraries are for people of any age to learn and grow.
Libraries are safe places for kids and teens to spend their time.
Libraries are comfortable places for the elderly to get out of the house and learn a new skill.
Libraries are necessary for the poor or unemployed to access technology and resources.
I visited Calgary’s new Central Library a few months ago. It is a stunning piece of architecture. It is also a stunning piece of community. Everywhere I looked, there were people of all ages, colours and backgrounds. They were reading, browsing books, chatting, using computers, getting math tutoring or career advising.
This is what libraries are meant for. They’re about books, yes, but even more so they are about what books represent – community and learning.
So, if you have a library where you live that you haven’t checked out in a while, go take a look. See what they offer. See how they’re making your community a better place.