I love libraries! I love visiting libraries, especially old ones. I love the old buildings and the history they represent. I love the familiar smell of books that makes me feel at home even if it’s a library I’ve never visited before.
I visit my local library regularly, at least once a month, and I have for years. On my most recent visit to the library, I started thinking about all the ways libraries bring value to our communities. As e-readers, computers, and technology continue to grow and dominate, I do get concerned sometimes about the future of libraries. But I don’t think they will ever go away completely. Below I will share some reasons why I think that is and some reasons why I have developed a true appreciation for libraries.
I don’t know about you, but if I were to accidentally hit “buy now” on my Amazon wish list, I’d be in big trouble! I learned a few years ago that I can request books, even books that aren’t released yet, from my library for just 25 cents! Yep, you read that right. For just a quarter, I can read a new release that probably would have cost me somewhere around $20 if I purchased it myself.
I am able to log onto my library account from home, browse the catalog, and put in requests for books. It’s just like shopping online except I don’t have to pay! When the book is available, usually within a week if it’s in stock, I get an email from my library telling me it’s ready to be picked up. I run up the road and pay just a quarter for a brand new book, or even some old ones that have been on my TBR list for some time. As an added bonus, kids and juvenile books are available for request free of charge! It is such a convenient way to read new releases and save some money. Plus, I love to know that all of those quarters added up equal money going to the public library, a very worthy cause to contribute to.
It is hard for me to clean out my bookshelves. I have some books that I will never part with. But I have others that were definitely “read once” kind of books. I enjoyed them, but I won’t read them again. I never throw books away or toss them into recycling. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Luckily, my local library gives me a great alternative. I am able to bag up any books I no longer want and take them to my library. They sort through them, take the ones they can use, and then put the others for sale in their sale section. Money from the books sold goes to the library, so this is another great way to support the library while clearing some space on my shelves (for all the new books I find in the library’s sale section!).
I mentioned e-readers in my introduction. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against e-readers. I own one myself and it is awesome, especially while traveling! I was afraid when I bought my e-reader that I would have to pay for all my books going forward, since I couldn’t check e-books out from the library. But as it turns out – I can! Yes, that’s right. I can “check-out” library books online and download them right to my e-reader, where they will stay for a specified period of time, usually 1-3 weeks, depending on how new the book is.
I have been able to borrow e-books from the library through websites like Overdrive, which now has the new Libby app. It is a great, convenient way to continue to utilize my library with the added bonus of not having to worry about picking up or dropping off books since everything is done electronically.
I also mentioned computers earlier. Their presence seems to be dominating library space lately. I have found this to be especially true for college campus libraries. It seems no one is interested in the books anymore and just wants internet access. While it’s true that so much research can be done online now instead of spending hours in the stacks pouring over books, the books should still be preserved in my opinion. But that’s not to say that I think computers aren’t an important staple in libraries.
Many libraries use computers for far more than allowing their patrons to surf the net all day. My local library offers classes in computer skills to help those who aren’t familiar with popular programs like Microsoft Office or email. These classes and workshops are invaluable to the people who need them, who often can’t afford to take “professional” computer classes. The computers are also used to help people in searching for and applying to jobs as well as preparing for tests like the GED. While I don’t like to see computers slowly taking over the bookshelf space, they do bring a lot of value to the library.
With summer winding down, the kids are heading back to school. But one thing I noticed during my summer visits to the library were kids – lots of kids. The library is an inexpensive way for parents to keep their kids entertained over the summer. There are tons of free books that they can read and take home to read. There are even summer reading programs where kids can earn prizes for achieving reading goals.
Libraries serve as a great way to get kids of all ages introduced to books and teach kids about how much fun reading and learning can be. I don’t think the need to entertain kids over the summer will ever go away or the need to teach kids to read and learn. Those reasons alone are enough to be grateful for libraries!
If you don’t have a library card, then please look into getting one. With my library card, I not only have access to all the books I want and the advantages listed above, but I also get discounted tickets to places like local museums and other attractions in town.
So there you have it. I hope you will consider stopping into your local library soon and supporting a worthy cause!