14 reasons to love your library on Library Lover's Day

As a child, I used to look forward to trips to the library with Mum or Grandpa, or whichever adult happened to be taking me there at the time. I remember the feeling of browsing the books at the three different libraries I used as I grew up, and have particular memories of the audio tape display at one library, where the cassettes seemed to be suspended in columns from the ceiling.

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I was a member of what some libraries refer to as The Lost Generation for a while-- people who stop using the public library in their late teens when their parents stop taking them and they no longer make the effort to go there on their own. Me, I stopped because I had access first of all to my school library, and then, to money of my own with which I started my rather large book collection. I went back to the library in my early twenties, when a friend of mine and I decided that we would read the entire Man Booker Prize Longlist. I did not want to own all of those books, and so, I went to a place where they would let me have them (for a time) for free...

February 14th is Library Lover's Day, and libraries around the country are showing just how creative they are as they plan different ways to celebrate it. But it doesn't have to be February 14th for you to love your library. Here are 14 reasons why libraries are great:

1. They let you borrow books for free

This is a no-brainer. Just don't spill your coffee on the new Charlotte Wood book. And if you have to wait your turn while other people ahead of you in the queue have the book you want, guess what? There are thousands more to read while you do.

2. They help you read more and help you read better. 

Again, this is related to point 1. I don't know about you, but I find that having a finite period within which to read the items I've borrowed helps me consider whether I really want to read something, or once I've started, whether I actually want to finish it.

3. They connect writers with readers.

Whether is this is through putting on an author talk, making a display of new and recommended titles, through a reader's advisory service or however it may be, the main business of libraries is getting the right book into your hands.

Photo by Ming An, courtesy of Canva

4. They connect us with better information.

In the age of Google, libraries may seem to have dimmed in importance, but actually the opposite is true. As the quote goes, Google can bring you back 1000 hits to your search query, but a trained librarian can bring you back the right one. Libraries are committed to helping their patrons get access to the right information, and helping them wade through the proliferation of misinformation that is out there-- and right now that's pretty damn important.

5. They help us stay up to date with technology.

As e-government systems and other e-services gain in popularity, it can sometimes be too easy to remember that not everyone has the same level of technical literacy. Libraries and librarians are on the front line of the effort to make our society more technologically literate, whether it be running classes on smart phones for seniors to coding clubs for young people.

6. They support skill-sharing and those wanting to try something new

If you haven't been into a library lately, you might not know what a hub of activity they are these days. Come in to a library on any day of the week and you might see people learning to knit, people playing Mah-Jong, people doing watercolour painting, people speaking different languages, people doing origami... a library of today is more of a community hub, and more and more free groups are meeting at libraries to sharing their hobbies and pass on their skills. If you're new to a place and looking to connect with people in your area, I recommend you check out your library as a first port of call for social connection.

7. They provide access to computers, internet and study space for those who are job hunting, freelancing, studying, working from home, or just getting started

Don't have a computer at home? No problem. Modern libraries often have computers that you can access, whether you need to type up your resume, do an online course to increase your qualifications, apply for jobs online, or even start your own business. Many libraries also run workshops for job hunters or people starting small businesses or doing freelance work. They also have lots of books about writing resumes and cover letters, improving your English language skills, creating websites and more.

8. They give you access to resources from home

Library closed? No problem. Most libraries give you access to a range of e-resources that can be accessed anywhere on your phone or computer so long as you have an internet connection. Whether it be audiobooks, e-books, movies, music, language learning, computer skills, etc., your library will have something for you to do when you can't visit them in person.

Photo by Pixabay, courtesy of Canva
9. They provide us with a connection to your local history

Most libraries will have a section devoted to the history of the area, and often will have a staff member or two whose job it is to seek out information about what life has been like in the surrounding suburbs over time. If you want to look at the history of your house, do your family tree, or if you're a historical novelist like myself, research places your characters might have been, you can book a consult with your local history librarian who can find you the resources you need. Most libraries also have fascinating collections of old photographs too if that's your cup of tea.

10. They have great activities for kids

If you've ever been to a library on Baby Rhyme Time or Story Time day, you'll know that kids love libraries. Yes, it can get noisy, but libraries are no longer completely silent spaces, and often have a mix of areas for silence and areas for activity and discussion. (Plus, noise cancelling headphones are your friend.) Library programs for children are designed to help children discover a lifelong love of books and learning, and to foster a special connection between children and the parents and grandparents who bring them along. Plus, they often get to make awesome craft creations to take home. The look of joy on children's faces as they carry their macaroni necklaces or egg carton firetrucks out the front doors after Story Time-- that's how you know you've just witnessed a Library Lover in the making.

11. They look after the reading needs of the elderly

Libraries traditionally flourish in two areas-- services for the very young, and services for the older members of our community. A library is usually the only place where older readers can get access to books in the formats they need, such as large print books or audio books on CDs for those who don't have access to, or want to use, a smart phone or tablet. Many libraries also have books on wheels programs, delivering books to patrons in their local council areas who cannot get themselves to the library or do not have family members available to take them. As a keen reader, the idea of being cut of from the thing I love-- books and reading-- sounds like torture, and so I am thankful that these services exist.

12. Librarians

I don't know about you, friends, but I think librarians are pretty amazing, and that's not just because I am training to be one. At primary school, the teacher who had the most impact on me was the teacher librarian, who encouraged me to keep writing and reading whatever took my interest, and was the first person to 'publish' my work when I wrote an acrostic poem for Book Week in Year 3. Think about the librarian in Matilda who lets a tiny, neglected, special child read classics from the grown up part of the library. Think of Giles from Buffy! The Orangutan Librarian in the Discworld novels.

Yep. Librarians are awesome. And they don't shush people anywhere near as much as you'd think.

13. More than just books

Libraries are always looking for ideas to improve the service they provide, and this means at some libraries you can borrow: neckties, briefcases and accessories to complete a job interview book (such as at the New York Public Library), cooking and baking accessories (yes, some libraries in WA do have this) and even humans-- real people whom you can 'borrow' to sit and chat with if you'd like to know their stories. Libraries are interested in providing what their communities want and need them to provide, and as our society changes in response to all sorts of factors, it will be interesting to see what else libraries do for the communities of tomorrow. Got a suggestion? Contact your local library, or make sure you fill in their next survey. Your opinion matters to to the library.

14. They give us some place to go where we don't have to spend money.

The other day I was at an event and I overheard someone say to her friend "I came here on the bus and I was early. I didn't know what I'd do with myself for an hour, and then I remembered I was at a library. I just sat here and read for free, and it was great!"  So long as it's open, you can hang out in your library as long as you want. Read a book. Use the wifi. Stare into space. The library is a place where you are not expected to spend a cent if you want to hang out there. Where cafes will start giving you looks if you're still nursing the same pot of tea in hour three, libraries want you to stay and use their spaces. So next time you find yourself needing a place to go, consider the library.

Let me know why you love your library in the comments below!