The end of the library?
When was the last time you went to your local library? Last week? A month ago? A year ago?
For many reasons, borrowing books from libraries seems to be in decline. With advances in technology, it is now possible for people to download and read whatever they like on electronic devices such as Kindles. It has been argued that doing this is cheaper than buying hard-copy books. They are also lightweight, making them ideal for travelling.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve never got into the e-book: I like to have printed books lining my bookshelves; I love the smell of a new book; and I enjoy leafing through paper pages — as long as I avoid the paper cuts! Also, what would I do with my vast bookmark collection if everything I read was electronic?
So, even though I prefer paper books to e-books, I also prefer to own them myself. Libraries only lend books, so what use are they to someone like me, or to someone who only reads electronic books?
Personally, I still love libraries. They offer a quiet space to sit, read, think, do research … a real escape from the outside world. When I was at university, I frequently spent hours at the library and borrowed numerous journals, articles and other printed materials, as it was just too expensive to buy brand new books every week to read for seminars and lectures. Libraries are free!
Libraries often organise an array of interesting activities as well. At home, my local library hosted actors, historians and other speakers during the town’s annual art and literature festival. Well-known authors are also invited to libraries to give speeches or lead discussions about their work. Events such as these are a great way to appeal to people of all ages in the community and encourage the use of libraries.
Since moving abroad to work in Quebec for a year, the importance of libraries has become clear to me on an even more personal level. The school I work in has an incredible library, which is proving invaluable when I want a good book to read but am feeling conscious that everything I would want to read during the year is unlikely to fit in my suitcase by the time I go home! I am good friends with the school librarian, who I stayed with for two weeks when I first arrived in Quebec. She is planning to hold an all-night reading session in the library in the coming months, which I hope to get involved with … if I can stay awake!
There are still many fantastic ways to use libraries — maybe we just need to be more awake to them!